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Meaning of Suffering

A man used to pray every night to God and repeat the same prayer. He would ask, “God do me a favour—and I have been asking this for my whole life. As far as I can see, I am the most miserable man on the earth. Why have you chosen me to be the most miserable? I am ready to exchange my misery with anybody else. I don’t ask for bliss. Can’t you give me only this single opportunity to exchange my misery with somebody else?” And one night God appeared in a dream and said to all the inhabitants of that town, “Gather all of your miseries into bundles and bring them to the church.” So the whole town gathered their miseries into big  bundles and brought them to the church. This man was tremendously happy that finally God had answered his plea. He rushed with his bundle. On the way he found others also rushing. By the time he reached the church he became very scared, because he noticed that people were carrying bigger bundles than his. People who had always seen smiling—in beautiful clothes and always saying nice things to each other, whom he considered to be happy—were carrying bigger bundles! He started becoming a little hesitant whether to go in or not, but he had been praying his whole life, so he said, “Let me see what happens.”

They entered into the church. The voice said, “Put your bundles around the Altar.” They put their bundles down, and the voice said again, “Now you can choose any bundle that you like.”  And the miracle of miracles happened and everybody rushed to his own bundle! This man also rushed so far towards his own bundle, afraid that if somebody else chose it then he would be lost. Everybody had chosen their own bundle, with great relief and they were all happy, carrying their bundles back to their homes. Even this man was very happy, and said to himself, “Who knows what is in the other’s bundle? At least I am aware of my own bundle and what it contains. And I have become accustomed to my misery and adjusted to it.”

We often think, God has given me the worst kind of life. It is very subjective. I suffer more than anyone in the world. Why did God give me such a kind of life? We learn to adjust to it soon yet grumble about it every now and then. Brooding over the miseries destroys happiness and peace of mind. Happiness is subjective and depends on each one’s perspective of life. Anxiety about the prosperity of the neighbor can bring misery to our life. The moment we concentrate on our own lives misery will begin to disappear. The Bible speaks about suffering: “Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keep his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out” (1 Cor 10:13). God does not abandon those who trust him, even though they do not understand the meaning of suffering.

God’s children who are called into His fellowship are partakers of all His blessings in the heavenly places even while they live on earth. As they fellowship with the Triune God in the heavenly experience here on earth, they also openly declare their allegiance to the Lord Jesus. They make use of every opportunity to live for the Lord Jesus on His pathway which is the way of the cross. Life with Jesus here on earth begins with a wicket gate and is followed with treading the narrow way carrying the cross. The cross that we carry is the embodiment of shame, despising, ridicule, loss and rejection which the world sends our way. We carry the cross to follow the Lord Jesus and declare that we are willing to be crucified with Christ in every walk of our lives. We confess our willingness to suffer for the Lord Jesus and thus allow these sufferings to be the test of our love to Him who demonstrated His love for us on the cross. This is the fellowship of sufferings that we are called upon to go through. We are not to lose our joy as we suffer and are to praise God for each moment of suffering that we pass through. It is suffering for righteous living. It is suffering because we openly testify to the cause of Christ and stand for truth and justice. It is suffering because we keep the principles of the Word of God each day of our lives. When we take such a stand for Jesus, the enemy of our souls will put trouble on our way to frustrate us away from following Jesus. The more zealous we are for Jesus, the greater will be the persecution and sufferings we will experience. As these sufferings increase, there will be abundance of comfort and joy flowing into our souls from our Lord to strengthen us. The more the sufferings, the greater will be the comfort from the Word and the Spirit of God. The comforts of the Lord are renewed every day in abundant measure to compensate for every suffering that comes our way. When sufferings flow into us, comforts come to fill us to overflowing so that we can comfort others who go through sufferings.

I compare the troubles which we have to undergo to a great bundle of faggots, far too large for us to lift. But God does not require us to carry the whole bundle at once. He mercifully unties the bundle, and gives us first one stick, which we are to carry today, and then another, which we are to carry tomorrow, and so on.   This we might easily manage, if we would only bear the burden allotted for us each day; but we choose to increase our troubles by carrying yesterday’s stick again today, and adding tomorrow’s burden to our load, before we are required to bear it. The truth is, today or tomorrow, there will come a day when one profits from those problems once seemed useless and futile. At that moment of revelation one may remember that such painful experiences were actually blessings in disguise and they have strengthened his personality and character. When the world grumbles at sufferings, the child of God sings comforting songs to praise God for it.

French writer, Alphonse Daudet, was stricken with paralysis in 1887. For eight years thereafter he lived in unceasing agony. Several of Daudet’s greatest books–studies on his suffering–were written while he was in constant agony which no medical treatment could relieve. Daudet wrote: “All of you who suffer, make your suffering a motive of spiritual elevation; utilize your pain to become good, to become better; think of me  who, in the midst of my glory, saw myself condemned to death but who henceforth thought only of studying that agony–that I might bequeath it as an example to my fellow sufferers. From now on I should like to do nothing but scatter happiness.”

A pearl is formed by a grain of sand getting into a mussel shell. It irritates and causes pain. The inner part of the mussel sends tears which congeal around the grain of sand that make a beautiful pearl. So our sufferings and tears and irritations make pearls…. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a pearl….”

The experience of troubles and distresses that the Lord allows us to go through are wide and varied. These events and circumstances prove the faithfulness of the Lord towards His children. He speaks to them during these experiences to reassure them that He will never forsake them nor allow them to be swallowed up by these troubles. He gives them enough grace to go through these trials. There are times when the world around us declares that our case has been written off by God also. This was what the Jewish community thought about the crucified Christ. Jesus told the disciples that in this world they will all have troubles and tribulations. But He has commanded us not to be afraid of these experiences because He has already sent enough and more grace for us to handle the depth of anguishes that we encounter. As we go through these experiences, we learn that our Lord is faithful and that He will deliver us from these trials at the right time.

You don’t have to worry about your future. You don’t have to try to make things happen in your own strength. You can go through the day in peace because God knows exactly what you need. In your future, He has already lined up the right people, the right breaks, the good words you’re going to need down to the second, down to the exact moment. God will cause you to come in on cue. And if for some reason it doesn’t work out, don’t get all discouraged. Don’t get depressed. It just means that God has something better in store Happy is the person who remains faithful under trials, because when he succeeds in passing such a test, he will receive as his reward the life which God has promised to those who love him (James 1:12).

The world understands suffering as a curse, an expression of divine punishment. However, those who have a transcendent or spiritual dimension to their life accept it as a special blessing. They see in every form of suffering a message from God saying that He loves the person who undergoes suffering. This spiritual outlook towards suffering is possible only when one believes in God who rewards those who joyfully accept difficulties and problems according to the example of his beloved Son Jesus, who made suffering his way of life and demanded it as fundamental to his discipleship. Those who are spiritually oriented are those who love God above and beyond all. That is, even in their suffering, and to such people all things work unto good (Rom 8:28).

Elsy Mathew

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