Especially hurting

Suffering had a beginning and will have an end.

Church is a safe place but it isn’t. Elementary schools are a safe place, but they aren’t. We can’t even feel secure in our families – they are broken as well. There’s no place that isn’t broken, no place that is safe. No haven on this earth can protect us. That cloud above us of despair is overwhelming, and I have no idea how a person can get through a day of this without the hope of Jesus Christ.

but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame,

Suffering produces endurance, gives us perspective on our momentary troubles and afflictions. That endurance in turn refines our character. As we endure suffering and gain perspective, we are drawn to Christ-likeness. We don’t look for the healing of our hurt, we look to the healer Himself. That is how we hope. Hope that the suffering is temporary – that we grieve here on earth because we know and long for the redeemed world we’ve been promised.

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

As we try to numb the pain and suffering, we miss the truth of God spoken to us. Shouted at us. We don’t always like what we hear. We certainly don’t like the way the message is delivered. When we close our hearts to the message, we miss the blessing. If the suffering is to have a purpose, we must allow God to speak to us through it. We must endure. We must continually seek sanctification. And we must cling to hope.

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a light and momentary affliction

This is one amazing verse. Paul is writing to the church at Corinth and he is encouraging them to bear their suffering.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV)

I can’t resist sharing it in this version, because I love the turn of phrase “momentary light affliction”.

For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17 HCSB)

I think we undervalue the poetry found in the Bible – but I digress.

I was inundated with illustrations and discussions of suffering this week. Pop culture (A mom on the Biggest Loser who suffered seven miscarriages, prompting her trainer to tell her “no one should have to go through that), Christian radio (Focus on the Family did a bit on suffering with Pastor Tim Keller this week), and then reading through my Bible in a year plan (first time!) I’ve recently wandered into the book of Job.

What I love about the verse from Corinthians is Paul keeping it real here. Our troubles can only be classified as momentary, because we exist but for a moment. That really puts affliction into perspective.

Pastor Keller shared insights about our inability as a culture to endure suffering- believing that the universe can always be tweaked to ensure a comfortable and fair life for all. Why would God let good people suffer, we ask? The suffering of “good” people can keep our friends and family from committing to a personal relationship with Christ. A saving relationship. A necessary, urgent relationship.

I think Paul would have a little something to say to us here too. Perhaps this, from the book of Romans:

For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. (Romans 7:18-19 HCSB)

The truth is, there are no good people. We all deserve suffering. We cannot engineer evil and sin out of our world.

“You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity? ” Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2:10 HCSB)

Job was a good guy (at least, through chapter two). As I was reading this verse struck me – Job clearly understood that all things work together for good (to those who love Christ). Adversity forges courage and strengthens character (as Pastor Tim Keller points out). Our light and momentary afflictions are achieving for us an eternal glory. As we endure suffering, trusting in God, we shine our light. I argue that a proper perspective on suffering can be the best witness of all.