A Wisdom Byte on Suffering

I hope you are familiar with Helen Keller and her REMARKABLE life.

It you don't know much about her, check out this short introduction to learn more.
Helen Keller has the "street cred" to talk about suffering, and overcoming suffering.
Of course, Jesus is the supreme example of suffering, of overcoming suffering, of transforming suffering, and demonstrating that suffering is the power of God's love at work for our salvation.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

It is the lot of humanity to experience some (and perhaps much) suffering in our fallen world.

It is the testimony of Christians to demonstrate the overcoming of all suffering, as we trust in the One Who Has Overcome the World.

6 Suggestions for Overcoming Suffering

ONE: Be Realistic.
In this world we will have trouble. We live in a fallen world. It is not the way it is supposed to be. Things go wrong. Things break. Evil exists. Bad people do bad things. Sickness and disease attack us. Natural disasters (whether small or BIG) happen. I could go on and on.

When you are REALISTIC you aren't caught off guard and surprised when hard times come your way.

This is one of the problems with the Prosperity Gospel, which says you should never suffer and if you are suffering it is because of your lack of faith in God. The Prosperity Gospel is simply NOT THE GOSPEL OF JESUS. It is the Gospel of the American Success Syndrome. Followers of this distortion simply do not know what to do when bad things happen to them, or when prosperity does not happen in the way they want.

Here is biblical realism (see Romans 8:28-39):
  • Jesus does not promise NO SUFFERING. 
  • Jesus does promise MUCH GRACE in the midst of suffering.
  • Jesus also promises to OVERCOME your suffering.  

TWO: Fix Your Eyes on Jesus.
Don't ignore the trouble or problem. But don't fixate on it either.
Look at the trouble with the eyes of Jesus.
Look through the trouble with the eyes of Jesus.  
Look around the trouble with your eyes on Jesus.

If you only look at the trouble, the trouble will become overwhelming. But if you look at Jesus and look with the eyes of Jesus, then your troubles take on a new perspective. The troubles are still there, but they are no longer the main thing.

It takes time to learn how to see with the eyes of Jesus and to fix your eyes on Jesus. But at the core of this is to remember that Jesus is in control, Jesus loves you, Jesus is always at work, all things work together for the good, and some of the greatest good emerges from some of the worst pain.

Hebrews 12:1-13 encourages us to fix our eyes on Jesus, who suffered. Jesus, as he suffered, had his eyes on something else. Read the passage to see what Jesus saw ahead of him.

THREE: Live by Faith, Hope, and Love.
These three virtues always matter, and they matter even more in times of trouble. The Christian life is a life of faith, hope, and love. That is exactly what you do in times of trouble. You live by faith, hope, and love. If you neglect any of them, you will live with fear, anxiety, and anger about your trouble.  (See 1 Corinthians 13:13)

FOUR: Hope is Powerful.
Hope knows that this world is not all there is. Hope knows there are green pastures and still waters on the other side of the Valley of the Shadow of Death (Psalm 23). Hope knows that while some of the promises of God are partially experienced this side of heaven, the fullness of God and his promises are on the OTHER SIDE of life. This world is not our final home. This world does not have the final word.

In one sense, every follower of Jesus lives with delayed gratification. In the language of one of the men's ministry programs we did years ago: We expect the greater reward in the WORLD TO COME.

FIVE: Pray, Listen, Learn, Trust, and Obey.
Times of trouble are often the times of most profound growth. I know they have been for me. The hardest (and worst) times of my life were also the times when I grew the most. Growth is not automatic. Suffering does not automatically mean you get better. It is what you do in times of suffering that makes all the difference.

So pray--a lot.
Listen carefully for the quiet voice of God.
Learn the lessons to be gained.
Trust and obey the truth you do know, as God is teaching you new things.

SIX: Learn from the Apostle Paul.
Read slowly through 2 Corinthians. Most of this letter is about the suffering Paul experienced. It may be the premiere part of the Bible to learn about suffering and comfort, grace, and OVERCOMING.

I recommend you jot down every lesson you learn about suffering and overcoming suffering. It will be easy for you to come up with 20 MAIN LESSONS. 
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Brian Rice
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