November 7, 2020 | By Jay Ashbaucher
The world has lots of good things for us to enjoy; family vacation times, fun activities with friends, the beauty of nature, sports, hobbies, and on and on. We wish life was always good, but we all go through seasons of suffering because we live in a broken world. Especially in this year of 2020, sufferings have come in many forms. Many have suffered illness, death and grief, loss of work and finances, fears and stress, all due to Covid-19. Many have suffered from lies and detrimental accusations of political unrest, worrisome effects of a divided nation, acts of violence, or persecution from people who are against those who are standing for what they believe to be right. Bad people are called good and good people are called bad. The world in many ways has not been pleasant.
Jesus promised, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). When the apostle Paul preached Jesus as the antidote to this world’s sufferings, many believed in Jesus as their savior. Knowing that some of those believers were experiencing horrible afflictions from opposing non-believers, and knowing the temptation to think that God did not care and had abandoned them, Paul feared they might fall away from their faith so he wrote a letter to strengthen and encourage them (1 Thessalonians 3:2-5). It is common to struggle in times of testing. Prayers may not be answered as expected, which is one more thing that creates doubt and wavering from one’s faith. The truth is, we need God as the primary way to help us get through our sufferings. God created us, and as our Creator, we are designed to rely on him for our well-being. There is no hope apart from God. We must keep believing that God is faithful, working out his good plans for the world, and us, even if we can’t see it.
Thoughts from God’s Holy Scriptures help us survive our sufferings? We begin with words from the Apostle Peter who gives wise counsel in a season of suffering. He says we are to cast our anxieties on God, for he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Due to his love and mercy, God has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Because Jesus lives, we too shall live. Although distressed by various trials, God has salvation awaiting us. When Jesus comes, our faith will have been proven true. Peter reminds us that Satan is out to destroy us, but we are to resist him by maintaining our faith in God’s love and care. After suffering for a little while, God will perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish us. Therefore, stand firm in the promises of God. Keep living as God wants you to live, even if you have to suffer for following Christ. Do not fear others’ intimidation, and do not be troubled. Believers are protected by God’s power so that a good future cannot be taken from them. God will take care of his people, promising they will inherit the world (Romans 4:13; Matthew 5:5).
Hear these words of encouragement from the Apostle Paul. He reminds us of the value of suffering. “We do not lose heart”, he said, for though our outer man is decaying, our inner man is being renewed day by day, for we do not focus on the things which are seen which are temporary, but on the things which are not seen which are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). As long as we keep our eyes on eternal realities, we remain steadfast in faith and hope, for nothing compares with the glorious future we will receive. The power that enables us to endure is not from ourselves, but from God. Others see the life of Jesus in us by how we respond to our sufferings. Who knows, they may be influenced to seek God (2 Corinthians 4:7-12). Through our sufferings, we are ambassadors for Christ. Paul was burdened excessively by his sufferings, even despairing of life, but he reminds us that we have the sentence of death within us so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
The Psalm writers also help us to endure our sufferings. As believers suffer for doing the good and right things God wants them to do and do not retaliate against those who cause their suffering, he is pleased with them. God will repay those who afflict his people and they can let him provide justice as he sees fit (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8). Reading Psalm 37 helps believers not fret over the wicked and evildoers of this world, for they will realize that the righteous triumph, while the wicked will disappear. Upon hearing that Psalm read, a person responded, “I feel sorry for them. They have nothing positive to look forward to.” This is a godly response, for such an attitude pleases God and frees persons to love their enemies (Proverbs 24:17-18). When Jesus suffered on the cross, he forgave his enemies. How was Jesus able to endure his sufferings? We read that he saw God his Father always present with him, and he knew all would be okay, for he would live again (Acts 2:24-28). As one Psalm writer said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me” (Psalm 23:5).
In the Bible, we notice how God has demonstrated over and over that he fights for his people. We are encouraged to see that some, who are righteous in their thoughts and actions, God protects from dreaded events they see coming. He delivers them from evil. I think of the man who saved the life of God’s prophet, Jeremiah. When Jeremiah was thrown in a pit and left to die, he went to the king to receive permission to save him, then he gathered others to help him go and pull Jeremiah out. Later, when Jerusalem was about to be destroyed by enemies, God told Jeremiah to go to the man who saved him and tell him that God would spare his life from the sword and deliver him from the hand of those he dreaded. God did this for him because he had trusted God and performed a righteous act in saving Jeremiah (Jeremiah 39:15-18). God is at liberty to be favorable to those who trust in him, live a righteous life, and risk their lives to help others in need. Who knows how God may help us in times of suffering. Whatever anxieties we may have, let us trust the God who is for us; he will not fail to keep us in his care and bring us safely through, whether now, or when he comes.