How do you react to suffering?

Pain is just an opportunity to be born again

On the same day when Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to His disciples and spoke peace to them (Jn 20:19-23, New Living Translation). Look at His victory! He didn’t just overcome death in the grave, He rose again with joy and peace. He was free in His soul as well as strong in His body. Nevertheless, just a few days before, His friends had betrayed Him and He had faced an unfair trial. He was mocked and scourged and then he was crucified in humiliation and suffering.

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So, what was it like when He rose again? Did He resent Judas who betrayed Him? Did He speak bitterly about His disciples who left Him to suffer alone? Was He angry at the Jewish temple leaders that demanded His death? Was He angry at the Romans who had nailed Him to the cross? Did Jesus talk about the pain of the scourging? Did He speak with anger about those who stripped Him off clothing? And what about the unfair trial? What about the dungeon that He stayed in overnight? Did He complain about the ones who nailed Him to the cross? Did He bemoan the scars in His hands and His feet? He did none of those things.

A Different Approach

Once Jesus rose from the dead, He never mentioned those who betrayed, mocked, humiliated, and crucified Him. He never complained about the injustice or the humiliation. He never spoke about His friends who left Him to suffer alone. Let’s go back to His crucifixion.

On the cross, while He was suffering, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34). He forgave during the trauma. He released all the sins that were committed against Him even before He’d finished suffering. He never yielded to resentment or bitterness. He forgave while He was on the cross. Do we have that same testimony?

Forgiving while Suffering

Heart-breaking seasons can certainly probe us, but they were never meant to define us.

The Lord has appointed to us some traumas and suffering, too. What kind of horrific ordeal can you go through? Was it a betrayal by people that you loved and trusted? Were you lied about or attacked? Did people speak harshly to you? Were you treated unjustly? Were you physically or verbally abused? Do you still hear those angry harsh words in your ears? Do you talk to others about the ones who hurt you? Are you resentful, bitter or angry? If so, then you were wounded, but you are not broken. You haven’t let the cross have its full point in your life; you haven’t fully died to yourself in it. Because, if you had, you would never mention negatively the people who caused you the suffer. Heart-breaking seasons can certainly probe us, but they were never meant to define us.

Maybe you were abandoned. That’s a fact from your past, but it’s not the destiny of your future. Were you rejected and abused? That’s a fact from your past, but it’s not the destiny of your future. Jesus was betrayed and mocked. He was abandoned and beaten. He was crucified and buried. Those were facts of His past, but they were not the destiny of His future. His crucifixion on the cross became power in the tomb. His broken body became the resurrection hope for the world. That’s the destiny that the Lord plans for each one of us! He does not intend for us to stay suffering on the cross. He intends for us to emerge victoriously, to come out of the pain with joy, to forgive the ones who put us on the cross while we are suffering.

Jesus has made available to you the possibility of living above the cruelty of man.

Don’t wait until you feel like forgiving because you’ll never feel like it. The flesh never feels like forgiving, but in our new life in Jesus, we choose to forgive. If the Lord has decreed some suffering and tragedy for you, it was not to leave you there. It was to invite you to resurrection. Jesus has made available to you the possibility of living above the cruelty of man. You can emerge from your trial in victory because of Jesus. All for His glory and His honor.

Here is the trophy of the resurrection of Jesus: Once He rose from the grave, He never again referred to the events of His crucifixion. Not one word. He didn’t complain about the people that had hurt him so badly. He had so thoroughly forgiven that He did not take it with Him through the resurrection, and that’s to be the trophy of our cross experiences. We need to fully forgive people even while we are suffering. So, like Jesus, we forgive even while on the cross. We don’t wait for an apology. We don’t wait for an explanation. We choose to forgive.

Do you know your Father?

“Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last” (Lk. 23:46).

At the very end of His life, who did Jesus want to commend Himself to? To His Father. His Father’s the One who chose the cross for Him. His Father’s the One who willed His suffering. His Father didn’t rescue Him from the pain, yet Jesus knew His Father’s nature. He knew, while He was suffering, that His Father was still good, He’s still compassionate, He’s still merciful. He knew His Father was kind and trustworthy. And so it was in that place of excruciating pain that Jesus commended Himself to His Father, the safest place in the world.

How could he have commended Himself to the Father when the Father chose the suffering? Because He knew Him. Do we know the Father like that? When we are suffering, do we know that the safest place is in the Father’s arms? Do we know that our Father will cause it to work together for our good? When we are mocked, ridiculed or rejected, are we anchored in our Father’s love? When we lose what is most precious to us, can we say like Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Jb. 13:15, King James Version)?

At that time, do we hold tightly to our faith?

Often there’s a painful delay between the suffering and the resurrection. Friday, during Holy week, we have the crucifixion; Sunday, the resurrection. What happened in between? It’s the day of quiet. Sometimes, after we suffer tremendously, God seems very quiet. He doesn’t explain our suffering to us. We don’t know what the future will look like. At that time, do we hold tightly to our faith?

Letting Go of Bitterness

Too often, when we are hurt by people, we talk about our suffering. We talk about the ones who have hurt us. We complain and mutter afterward. We slander their reputation. When we’re traumatized or mistreated, we complain and we resent. Bitterness eats at our souls. We forfeit the joy and peace that we could have if we would just forgive.

We all have been betrayed by someone. It’s likely that we’ll all be betrayed again because, as we move closer to the day of the Lord’s return, there will be more offenses, there will be more betrayal, there will be more hatred, and there will be more persecution. When we experience that, we must forgive quickly. We dare not let layers of pain form in our hearts. We need to guard our hearts from bitterness. We need to guard them from self-pity and from the hope of revenge.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Prov. 4:23).

If your heart has resentment and anger in it, then the life of God that comes through you is polluted. It’s not living water that gives life and joy. It’s defiled water.

The Essence of Resurrection

Our times alone in prayer and worship must increase, because betrayal and offense will increase, and the only way we can overcome significant pain within is to spend a lot of time in the Lord’s presence. It’s wonderful when we go to church and we worship together with our brothers and sisters, but each of us need to have our own times of prayer and worship by ourselves. In the battles that we are facing and will face we can only be victorious if we are people of prayer and worship.

Jesus showed us how to die. He showed us how to suffer. He showed us how to rise again in victory. He showed us that, while we’re suffering, we choose to forgive. While dying we entrust ourselves to our faithful Father and, once we’re resurrected, once we’ve come through the trauma and it’s all over, we live a life of resurrection. We never speak badly about the people who hurt us. We never speak negatively about those who caused our suffering. This is the essence of a life of resurrection. It’s the highest order of Christian living.

Suffering is an invitation

“If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all” (Heb. 12:8).

The Father’s plan for us is that we grow into strong men and women of God. He’s looking for maturity and part of this process is allowing us to go through some hard times. If you’re going through a difficult time of training, your loving Father has assigned it to you. He’s treating you as a beloved child. He allows your suffering for your profit so you can share His holiness and His righteousness.

Suffering is an invitation to greater intimacy with Jesus. If you’re going through and experience of suffering and death, know that the Lord is welcoming you into a place of camaraderie with Him. We all love to be on the mountaintops with Jesus, but there are many valleys that we also need to walk through and that’s where our intimacy with Him is the richest. All that God does and allows is motivated by love. So, if you’re suffering, draw on His strength and comfort. Pursue holiness and intimacy with Him during this time.

“So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you” (1 Pet. 4:19).

Don’t allow difficulties, pain or suffering to separate you from the Lord. Use them as levers to press you closer to Jesus. Prove yourself faithful to God. Prove that you’re worthy to bear His name and His honor. The world out there is in desperate need of seeing resurrected believers. People need to see those who have encountered the cross and they’ve come out on the other side still praising the Lord, still trusting the Lord, even more so because they suffered. The world needs to see people that are not embittered by tragedy. We need to allow the suffering we endure to tenderize us, to make us softer, so we can reflect the love and the kindness of God.

Rise above your circumstances

Once we have come to our cross experience and we emerge out victorious, it should show in a life of humble submission to Jesus, not fighting for our own way, not demanding our own rights, but fully submitted to Him and His will. When we suffer in the flesh, we should cease from sin, we should die to selfishness and we should determine to live the rest of our lives for God’s glory.

On the other side of every hardship is the resurrection. It was true for Jesus and it’s true for us. Our circumstances may not change today, but our outlook can change. Let’s rise above our circumstances. Let’s trust God’s will and let’s entrust ourselves to our faithful Creator. Let’s make sure we forgive while we’re suffering so that our soul does not go into bondage. Are you ready to embrace the cross and let it do its perfect work in you so you can come through the dead into resurrection?

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