Summary: We will never be tried beyond our strength.Jesus Christ our Lord shows us that suffering and death have meaning and helps us to carriy our burdens cheerfully.
There is a natural revulsion to suffering in us all. No one likes pain or irritation. Our natural inclination is to avoid suffering at all costs. What a lot of weeping there is in the world! If we could gather it in one place it would fill a sea, a great ocean. We are not free from physical and mental handicaps, sickness, poverty, worries, anxieties, the death of those dear to us, failure in the examination, frustrations of daily living, monotony, boredom, misunderstanding, calumny etc. Some of them only last a while while others constantly bother us.
Many troubles are of our own imagination and remain only at the level of imagination. Some sufferings are of our own making. A student wastes a lot of time and as a result fails in the examination But there are other sufferings, which we think we don’t deserve. We are unable to comprehend the mystery. Why didn’t God make Herod die before he could carry out the slaughter in Bethlehem because Jesus was a thorn in his side? Does this God exist or not? If he exists why doesn’t He act?. To know from experience that God can do all things and what he chooses to do is to let you suffer is really very painful.
Among all the prophets, Jeremiah closely resembled Christ in his sufferings. His whole life was a long drawn out martyrdom. A man of peace and gentle nature, he had to be continually at war with his own people. It was a torture of soul. He loved his country. Yet he was considered a traitor by his own people. He hates what he has to say to his people but he is compelled by God to say it. No one can be a prophet unless he is ready to suffer.
Even though he is the Messiah and may be because he is the messiah Jesus has to undergo humiliations, sufferings and violent death. Peter was elated to be praised by the Lord as he acknowledged him as the messiah. But then he fails to understand him as the crucified and suffering Messiah. Peter the rock becomes the stumbling block. Hence the rebuke of the Lord “Get behind me, Satan". Inspired by the Holy Spirit he acknowledged him as the messiah. And continuing the work of Satan who wanted to sidetrack our Lord from doing the will of the Father, Peter dissuades him from the cross. “Get away” the Lord said to Satan. Peter was not supposed to lead Jesus. Peter’s duty was to go behind i.e. to follow the master and not to lead the master. Having silenced Peter, Jesus tells his disciples that he expected them to imitate him and to be ready to suffer any hardship.
What is our attitude to sufferings? An early solution was to attribute suffering to personal sin. It is an inadequate solution since even the just man encounters evil.
Another solution is to look upon suffering as an educating punishment. Our inability to get to the truth except by bitter experience is terrible. Once we have been betrayed by someone, we begin to realize how we have betrayed others. When we have been ignored while sick we begin to behave more sympathetically towards the sick. It was hunger that converted the prodigal son.
Yet another explanation is that when God is going to do something wonderful, he always begins with a difficulty. "You are the block, God is the sculptor. You cannot know what he is cutting you for and you never will in this life. All you want is patience, trust, confidence, and he does it all" says John Chapman.
"Before becoming a statue you will have to receive many blow" "A Good man is like tea-leaf: His real strength comes out when he is in hot water"
"God permits evil so as to transform it into a greater good, grace" We know God cannot deceive us and this is our strength. A parent does not desert the child. A friend does not betray a friend. If pain is there in this world, He knows how to transform it into freedom, light and bliss.
Finally, the problem of suffering will be solved by the person of Christ. We will be compensated at the glory of resurrection. If the kingdom of eternal life exists, suffering and deaths have meaning. If it does not exist, there is no explanation at all. We have his assurance that we will never be tried beyond our strength. In other words his helping hand is always there to share our load.
A pastor was going through a crisis. His little daughter who was paralyzed was sitting in her chair as he entered the house with a package for his wife. Giving his daughter a big kiss he asked, "where is Mother?" "Upstairs," She replied. " Well, I have something for her" "Let me carry it to Mother" said the daughter. "Why, Minnie dear, how can you carry this package? You cannot carry yourself". With a big smile, the child replied, "Oh no Papa, but if you give it to me, then I will carry the packages and you can carry me". God spoke softly to his heart that this was his own position. He was carrying his burden, but wasn’t the Lord also carrying him?