June 24, 2012
Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. 1 Peter 4:19
One pastor I know, almost seriously suggests that along with a birth and baptismal certificate, we ought to give newborn babies a list covering life's possible, no, make that probable happenings.
The document would read something like: "Dear baby, welcome to the world. If you lead a relatively normal life, you may expect to find your years filled with hope and happiness, joy and jubilation, excitement and exploration, love and laughter. But you will also encounter suffering, sadness and sorrow, loss and loneliness, discouragement, doubt and, most inevitably, death."
Little wonder that Jesus warned His followers: "... In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33b).
Never one to pull punches or compromise the truth, Jesus wanted all of us to know that suffering comes. That truth probably isn't a revelation to you, is it?
The question is how are we to respond?
To troubles, some people end up saying things like "the Lord is in control." Indeed, there is nothing in this universe that is beyond the scope or vision of the all-knowing God. Still, when a person is in the midst of suffering, most would wish the Lord would use His power to make things better.
There are others who respond to trouble with words like "you will only be given as much suffering as your faith can deal with." That sentence is also true. Still, I've known folks who respond by muttering, "If that's so, I think I'm going to ask for a weaker faith, and then I won't have to suffer so much."
How do you respond to suffering? C.S. Lewis said, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks (to us) in our conscience, and shouts (to us) in our pain. Pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world." C.S. was right but after the first bout of suffering, most of us would like to say, "Okay, Lord, You've got my attention. What are You wanting of me?"
So, how are we to respond to suffering?
Paul gives a Holy Spirit-inspired answer to suffering. He says when you're suffering for something caused by your faith in Jesus, do two things:
1. Entrust yourself into the hands of the loving Lord. He who sent His Son to live, suffer, die and rise for you is not going to leave you high, dry and stranded.
2. In the midst of your suffering don't shake your fist at heaven and act as if God had deserted you. On the contrary, He is very close. Especially in suffering you need to live as if you believed in God's ongoing presence. Keep on doing good, giving evidence that you are, in Christ, a conqueror, which, of course, a conqueror is what you are.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, suffering is either with me now or will be by my side in the future. May I, in the face of those burdens, be turned to Jesus who can conquer my pains even as He has forgiven my sins. In His Name. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries