Suffering as Joy

No one likes to suffer.

Yet, Hebrews 12:2 says, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Personally, I like to focus on Jesus’s statement that we can ask anything in His name, and it will be given (John 14:13). Paul writes that God accomplishes beyond what we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).


James should have meditated upon John 14:13 and Ephesians 3:20 before he wrote, “Consider it all joy brothers and sisters when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2).

Christianity embraces suffering in a way that other religions and points of view do not.

No one likes to suffer but…

Jeremiah wrote in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

The Old Testament prophets often wrote to warn about consequences – suffering because of our own actions. Then in the middle of the gloom and doom of Lamentations Jeremiah writes one of my favorite verses on hope.

Christianity does not embrace inevitable suffering that has no purpose; it teaches sin, resultant pain, and ultimate mercy. Eastern religions commiserate and teach acceptance; atheists, while suffering, get mad at a God they don’t believe in; Christians have a resurrected savior.

I have remembered a quote for over 40 years. Corrie Ten Boom, having just come through a Nazi prison camp where all her family members died, wrote:

No pit is deeper than God is deeper still.

I don’t think the Bible teaches that we are to pursue suffering as self-flagellation to earn salvation.

Christians can have an attitude of “life is difficult, woe is me, perhaps things will be better in heaven.” With suffering their fate, they endure or complain, or both endure and complain.

Suffering should not be accepted as the only path of discipleship. God is good. He is not an overbearing schoolteacher who loves discipline.

God loves you. Suffering exists. God has the power to erase all suffering. But He doesn’t always take away all pain.

That is the problem.

I know that suffering in the “following God” context enables relationships to grow.  Jesus suffered for the joy of overcoming sin and enabled renewed relationships with all of us.

You or I would sacrifice for those that we love.

When I learned the news that my mother had been killed in a car wreck, and years later, as I stood by my father’s bed as he passed into eternity, I felt Jesus standing next to me, I had a peace beyond understanding.

Jesus suffered. All suffering in both the Old Testament and New Testament points

toward the suffering of Jesus. Jesus lived and died. He suffered for us.

He was resurrected!

Jesus now stands next to us in our difficulties as God and as our friend. The mystery of His presence, enabled by the cross, allows…

James to write, “Consider it all joy!”

Corrie Ten Boom to say, “No pit is deeper!”

Jeremiah to proclaim, “His mercies are new every morning!”

Suffering and pain. Often, we pray, and it is gone. Sometimes not. Joy remains as we trust our Father.

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