God doesn't send suffering to you, but He does allow you to suffer, to go through trials, and experience tribulations. There is not a person among us who has not suffered. There is probably not a person, who is not right now going through some difficult situation, has not just emerged from one, or is not about to enter one. Believer, you are not alone. Even when your suffering seems worse than anything around you, even when you think no one can or will understand, even when you give in to the lie to isolate yourself in it, you are not alone. The church, your brothers and sisters imbued with the Spirit of Jesus Christ are there, waiting to walk beside you and bear the burden with you and needing you to bear the burden with them. God is with you too. He has chosen to indwell you, to abide in you and He wants you to abide (stay and live) in Him.
One of the reasons that the Gospel of Christ spread so far, even in ancient times was because Christians were persecuted very badly. In order to save their lives, livelihoods, and lifestyles of faith, they had to leave Jerusalem and other cities. They had to leave behind family, friends, and the only faith they had ever known. This terrible maltreatment, discrimination, and oppression led to the scattering of the church, especially the Jewish Christians who could be arrested and killed for not keeping the Pharisaical law. Verses 1-4 begin James letter to the dispersed church.
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
In other words, go ahead and choose to be happy over the various trials you go through. Those trials, whatever they are cause you to exercise your faith. Faith allows you to persevere with resoluteness, to be even instead of not agitated, troubled, or despondent. As you walk faithfully, the Holy Spirit is conforming you to Jesus’ perfect image. That is His will for us (1 Thessalonians 4:3). What a good thing! Faith in God carries you through and grows with each step you take. What is faith? The author of Hebrews defines it this way in Hebrews 11:1-3,
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
God spoke and created the Universe. What He speaks, is. His word is His will (desire) manifested (come to be). So we can have faith that God’s will for us will happen. God wants good things for us! He wants our sanctification. He wants us to glorify Him. He wants us to know Him, to be in a close relationship with Him. Hosea 6:6 is one of my favorite verses.
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
Zechariah 13:9 reads,
And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’
Believer, He wants these things for us, but He will never force us. He will never sanctify us against our will. If we are not willing to look at our trials with His wisdom and grow our faithfulness, steadfastness, and character, then He will not make us. Verses 5-11 read,
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
If we are not willing to look at the situation from a godly perspective or even ask God to show s His perspective, we will not and cannot develop the perseverance that comes from faith, because we won’t have be choosing to look through faith from God’s wise point of view. When we suffer, when we are brought low, God is really bringing us up to His image. But if we refuse and instead want to mourn the worldly things we’ve lost or pursue those worldly things instead of the kingdom of Heaven, God will let us, but we’ll fade away with no impact on the kingdom, no change in us, and no treasures in Heaven. That is why it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle; because the rich man doesn’t want to give up his comfort for suffering (Mark 10:23-25). Faith assures us that whatever we give up for the Lord will be replaced a hundred times over. In Mark 10:29-31 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Faith reminds us that we have eternal life. It is that hope, that knowledge of what God has done, is doing, and will do that allows us to be happy, to choose joy through the hard times and remain joyful and faithful through the easier times. Verse 12 reads,
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
So many of our trials, so much of our suffering is the result of our own bad choices. Choosing to be joyful through our suffering does not mean believing that God sent you temptation in order to cause you to sin so that you can suffer. When people sin against you, He lets it happen for your discipline, but He doesn’t tempt people to sin, regardless who they are. Verses 13-15 read,
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
I have heard people say and even believed in the past that God sends tests, that He wants me to suffer, be ill, poor, or whatever. Oh believer, God does not rain evil down on you. He will use it for your good and sanctification (Romans 8:28-30), but He doesn’t send evil, there is no evil in Him. He sends good because He is good. Verses 16-18 read,
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
God is steadfast. God never changes. He is good and He is bringing us into His image, making us the best of His creation.
Believer, I know you suffer. God knows you suffer. But you can choose to be joyful through it because you know that it is making you like Him, complete, perfect, and the best He has (and what He has is wonderful and endlessly good). I know you suffer but take joy and if you can’t ask God to show you the situation through His eyes. God wants good for you.