Summary: Don't waste your suffering - Use It to grow, comfort others and let your light shine.
On twitter a Pastor posted: "Two Sundays ago I preached on sickness. Since then half my congregation has fallen ill. Sunday I preach on sadness. Consider yourself warned."
I tweeted back: "I preached on suffering and my car broke down and my wife has been in emerg twice. I gonna preach on money."
Suffering is a part of life, a part of life that I do not enjoy. I like the nice weather of life and I am not too interested in the storms that continue to blow my way. However, the reality is that our world is broken and hard times come whether we want them to or not.
One thing I like about the Bible is that it's a book written by real people, serving a real God and they have real problems. I think everyone of us can relate to these words from Psalm 22:1
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?”
"Here I am living my life for Jesus trying to love Him with all my heart, soul and mind yet all this stuff keeps happening to me. What's up with that? This is not fair at all!!!"
Scripture gives us many reasons for suffering let's consider 3 of them.
1) Here's How To Use Your Suffering - Use It To Grow
I have searched from Genesis to Revelation and what I see sometimes I don't like:) I see people's faith in God really growing as they went through tough times. I wish the examples were different but they are not. In the consideration of trials that come our way Peter said:
"These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world." (1 Peter 1:7)
We grow in strength by working and testing our bodies.
We grow in school by working and testing our brains.
We grow in God when our faith is worked and tested.
I don't know about you but I often forget that the faith I have inside is actually worth more than gold? Our faith is valuable and it becomes more valuable as it gets tested. Don't Waste Your Suffering - Use It
2) Here's How To Use Your Suffering - Use It To Comfort Others
A friend of mine recently went through a divorce and was having great difficulty working things through with his ex. I did my best to help but when he finally met a guy who just a couple of years ago went through the same thing it made a huge different. "Finally someone who understands me!!"
"He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us." (1 Corinthians 1:4)
We can receive the comfort of God in many ways:
A unique work of the Holy Spirit
A Scripture or encouragement from another person.
When God comforts us it's not meant to be the end it's just the beginning. God expects us to be looking for opportunities to give comfort to others. Don't Waste Your Suffering - Use It
"God's comfort is not given it's loaned and we are expected to pass it on to others."
3) Here's How To Use Your Suffering - Let Your Light Shine
There is nothing scarier for a sports fan than it see the teams Star Player on the sideline.
How long will they be gone?
Can the team hold it together"
Whose going to step up?
How will the coach change things up?
In the second half of the Book of Acts, the Apostle Paul was the Franchise Player. He cast a huge shadow, in his 3 Missionary Journeys he traveled nearly 8,000 miles telling people about Jesus and now he is in jail.
How long will he be there?
Will the church survive without his input?
Who is going to step up?
What is God going to do now with Paul sidelined?
In writing to the Philippians, Paul gives us another look at our suffering.
"And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear." (Philippians 4:12-14)
Suffering can be an opportunity for advancing the Kingdom, for sharing the Good News about Jesus. If people know you are a Jesus follower they watch you closely. But what they really want to know is if Jesus works when times get tough. When the summer weather is over and you are in the midst of a cold, dark winter.