Many of us have experienced suffering that feels like it could destroy us. Many of us have experienced heartache. We have experienced the incredible joys of life but also the deep sorrow. When we experience this suffering, it can be hard to reconcile this with our faith. Are we being punished for something? Doesn’t being a Christian mean life’s good? Why is this happening?
Something that we have to understand is that the presence of trials does not mean that you have a lack of faith. It does not mean you are being punished for a sin you committed. Being human means going through hardship. We will have good times. But, as we are on this Earth, we are going to have pain and struggle. And this struggle does not mean that there is something lacking in our relationship with Christ. Jesus even told the disciples before He left that they would have trouble. He says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.”
The disciples were doing everything they could to serve Jesus and they still experience trials. We just read through Acts and saw all of the pain and hardships Peter, Stephen, Paul, Silas and more went through as they served the Lord with their whole lives. So, do not run away from God in the suffering thinking that you are being punished because of some type of sin. Now it is important to search our hearts and confess our sins. There could be suffering in our life that is a direct consequence of the sin that is in our life. But we can be confident that, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins (1 John 1:9). But, if we are doing this, we do not need to worry that we are being punished for our sin. Our God is God of grace and mercy. Sometimes, it can be easy to think that the only sufferings we will receive glory from those that relate to our relationship with Jesus. We definitely will receive glory from these as Romans 8:17-18 says that, if we share in His sufferings, we will also share in His glory. But, we know that all kinds of suffering produces characteristics in us that make us look more like Christ. Romans 5:3-5 tells us, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
In 2 Corinthians chapter 4, verses 9-11 say, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.”
Even in affliction and suffering, the life of Jesus can be revealed. That means even in the cancer diagnosis, even in the loss of a loved one or the loss of a friendship, even in the financial crisis, Jesus’ light can be revealed. We have to constantly lean in to the hope that is in Jesus. We have to stand on the foundation of truth which is God’s Word. We have to feel and share our feelings with the Lord to allow for healing because we know He is the God of all comfort and He is close to the brokenhearted. We have to fix our eyes on heaven.
Verses 16-17 say, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” This shows how God cares deeply about our suffering even if we don’t have tangible evidence of him at work. All of these struggles are opportunities for the Jesus’ hope, light, and presence to shine through us. We also know they are all temporary struggles so we do not need to lose heart. Through this suffering, as we draw closer to God rather than away, we are being made to look more like Christ.