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Doing Life Together

My pastor is taking us through the book of Daniel. Reading Daniel 11 and 12, I realized I need to better understand the role of suffering in the life of a Christian.

Daniel 11 is a dismal chapter of prophetic events. Daniel was living in tough times and receives a vision that things are going to get even worse. The Jews will suffer tremendous persecution and the temple will be desecrated. The war on earth is reflecting the war in the heavenlies.

Daniel is told that eventually the political powers will be broken, but in the meantime, many will suffer who stand for God. Evil will oppose God’s people. And his people must be able to stand, to be courageous until the end.

Most of us read this passage and wonder, why are God’s children allowed to suffer, to be slaughtered and persecuted?

One form of suffering involves the malevolence of the evil one, Satan, who prowls the earth to devour what he can. He is real and given free reign on the earth. He thought he had a plan to destroy Jesus on the cross, but God aborts Satan’s plan and uses Christ’s suffering to save us.

Other times we suffer as a consequence of our sin. Think Ananias and Sapphira! Our disobedience and sin bring us pain and suffering. Yet, even so, God can still use our disobedience to bring us to Him.

Suffering can also come in order to educate and discipline us. Hebrews 12 tells us how suffering disciplines us to deal with a fallen world. We are to endure hardship as discipline. Such discipline brings righteousness and peace.

At times, suffering allows us to empathize with others. I can attest to this through the death of my brother and years of infertility. There is an empathy I have that can be used to comfort and understand others who have suffered such things.

Perhaps the most difficult type of suffering is that of innocent people. John speaks to this in the story of the blind man. The disciples ask whose fault is it, to which Jesus declares, no ones, but this can be used to glorify God. He then heals the man.

No matter the type of suffering, we must trust God in all situations and believe He is in control. Nothing tests our faith more than when we suffer. We are challenged to  see this life as a vapor that leads to eternal life. Suffering is a vehicle that God uses to sanctify us and bring glory to Him. In the end, suffering forces us to trust God in His sovereignty. It is a tool God uses to bring us to Him. It causes us to walk by God’s power, not our own.

I admit, my personal struggle with suffering is that I want to understand it, yet God wants my trust and not my understanding. Job reminds me of this. One day, it will all be set right–no more pain, no more suffering. Until then we trust.

Joni Eareckson Tada once said, “God permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves.” Suffering can be redeemed and drives us to the cross.

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