The Theology of Suffering

Books have been written on the subject of suffering. Some people resign themselves to it. Others deny it. The devil gets blamed for it. Sin is thought of as the cause of it. We are encouraged to pray for relief from it. And the pharmaceutical companies make a profit on it.

Paul reduces suffering to its bottom line.

He writes in Romans 5:3, 4: "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."

Rejoice in suffering? Now there's a novel idea.

My suffering is nothing compared to that of others. Nevertheless, when my hands refuse to work because of the pain, I fuss and fume. I seldom rejoice and thank God that they hurt. Paul would say that I was missing the point. He's right. Though suffering is a product of the fall, God uses it for his glory and our good—if we are willing to accept it as a part of our spiritual growth.

Suffering is meant to be a "God-thing."

I remember fondly a certain professor I had in seminary. He was a paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair and in constant pain. The former was obvious, the latter was something we could only tell by close observation. He never complained, never mentioned his suffering. He taught with good humor, joy, and great skill even when in pain. The hand, shoved inside his jacket was the sign. That fist was clenched in agony, but he kept going. He was learning the lesson of perseverance, character, and hope.

Physical suffering is only one part of all that falls under that particular category. Paul's message applies to every facet of suffering. I suppose my mind is attached to my hands today—they hurt now. Help me, Lord, to rejoice in their pain because they are part of the great lessons of life that you want to teach me.

Comments

  1. Rejoicing in suffering is such a tough one--but God CAN do it through us. We learn so much when we look with the right eyes. Thank you, Lynda.

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  2. I think part of the problem we as Christians can have is in not keeping all of God's word - we dissect and ignore the scriptures we can't seem to fit into our pet theology. But it all fits together like a puzzle, and we can't have the parts we like and leave out the parts we don't like. Thanks for sharing - and because God also does grant relief for our adversity, I'll pray for your pain to be relieved!

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