Summary: Redeem your suffering by searching for understanding, asking the right questions, comforting others, developing a teachable spirit, identifying with Christ, and by becoming sensitized to other’s suffering.
The psalmist asked; Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain (Psalm 73:13-14 NLT).
After shooting his mother in the head four times while she lay asleep, Adam Lanza dressed himself in black, armed himself with a military-style assault rifle loaded with ammunition designed in inflict maximum damage, and shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Moments later, 20 children and six adults lay dead. Shortly thereafter, Lanza ended his life as well.
One week later, on December 21, 2012, chiming bells reverberated through this and many other cities nationwide to commemorate the 26 victims of Lanza. Some rang 28 times to honor the total number of deaths in the massacre.
We Search for Understanding
In response to the why of the above senseless tragedy, Rev. Lou Hays of St. Paul’s in Mount Lebanon, said, “It’s the toughest question we have as people of faith.” Others recognize suffering as one result of free will. Bishop David Zubik of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh remarked, “God only wants what’s good. But it’s the personal freedom, how people use it is how that evil really comes into the world.”
While suffering is ultimately outside the realm of God’s will, it becomes beneficial when we turn to him for understanding, for liberation, and for the strength to persevere. Assigning blame only intensifies our anger, fuels unforgiveness, impedes the healing process, and results in endless speculations-the answers to which God doesn’t always provide. Trusting God in the absence of full understanding increases our faith in his promise to somehow manufacture good out of the most evil situations and often brings out the “better angels” of our natures. Let suffering drive you closer to God instead of turn you against him.
We Should Ask the Right Questions
We three brothers crouched snugly in a booth at a local restaurant rehashing old memories and considering life’s complexities and our current situations. We were doing what we hadn’t done in years-spending alone time together in the same place at the same time.
Though we were all younger than middle age, our list of sufferings seemed quite lengthy. Parkinson’s. Diabetic neuropathy. Heart malfunctions. Disability. Financial struggles. Several divorces. Rebellious daughters and angry sons. And we could identify with rebellious children. We had shared in a few uprisings ourselves. Growing up as preacher’s kids wasn’t easy. Pious parishioners and unrealistic expectations often pummeled us into areas better left alone-and the consequences were normally unpleasant. But we had mended our ways, so why the frequent anguish?
The psalmist clashed with the age old question of suffering but then comforted himself. Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes (Psalm 37:7 NLT).
Why is the typical question when suffering has us in its sights or when things aren’t going our way. And while the why may be important, the what is usually more essential. What is my relationship with God? Unpleasant circumstances can be God’s way of illustrating our need for a faith experience with him. What are my priorities? I’ve had a relationship with Jesus Christ since I was nine, but there have been periods when he wasn’t first...or even close. Jumbled priorities can creep up unexpectedly and be challenging to untangle. What is my plan for spiritual growth? God can stretch our faith with distasteful situations, and these often drive us to prayer, his Word, and wise counsel-all good growth sources. Let God help you redeem your suffering by asking the right questions.
We Should Comfort Others
She developed as a tropical wave on October 22, 2012 in the western Caribbean Sea and quickly swirled into a tropical storm named Sandy. Seven short days later, she stepped ashore as a hurricane near Atlantic City, New Jersey. Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the Caribbean along with the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern portions of the United States, killing 253 people along her seven country strut and inflicting 65.6 billion dollars in damage.
Yet in the midst of suffering came hope and comfort. Disaster relief units descended on New Jersey bringing shower/laundry units, mud out crews, counseling teams, chain saw crews, and feeding units. Churches responded with “Buckets of Care for New Jersey,” providing tools, first aid, and safety item supplies for storm victims. Comforters in South Carolina alone filled 466 buckets.
While the cause of our sufferings may escape us, one result never should. He (God) 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 (II Corinthians 1:4 NLT).