How to Live the Bible — Good Out of Hardship
This is the one-hundred-thirty-eighth lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
Most people who suffer something significant wonder whether there is any purpose in it. Our first responsibility to those who suffer is to show compassion and empathy, but there are answers to the question of redemption in suffering.
Second Corinthians provides some honest truths about suffering. For instance, Paul says that in his heart he felt under the sentence of death, but his circumstances resulted in not relying on himself but “on God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9). Suffering has a way of pushing to the margins of life all the issues that are truly marginal. It points out what really matters in life, what will matter 20 years from now and 50 years from now. Suffering has a purifying effect. Second Corinthians 4:7 says, “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” In 11:30, Paul says “if I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” During days of suffering, Paul was driven to the grace of God. He came to believe that God’s grace was sufficient and God’s power was made perfect through weakness.
2. Suffering can equip us to help others (2 Cor. 1:4)
When we’re going through troubles and experience God’s comfort, we come out the other side better able to “comfort those in trouble with the comfort that we ourselves received from God.” Nothing matters more in life.
3. Suffering can chasten us in appropriate ways (Heb. 12:4-11)
Hebrews 12 teaches that sometimes, when we suffer because of the poor choices we’ve made and we live through the consequences of them, we experience a kind of chastening from a heavenly father who loves us enough to correct us. There are lessons to be learned through suffering. When bad things happen, sometimes the most important thing we can do is look past the pain.
Are there ways we can get through a time of suffering in life by looking beyond it? Yes.
Many people tell stories of how God did things that they would not believe he could do during their suffering and after. This is the way of the suffering Savior.
“Jesus was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering,” but he was not a victim (Isa. 53:3). Hebrews 4:15 says that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.”
Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” The prophets said “a bruised reed [the savior] would not break; and a smoldering wick he would not put out.”
Romans 8, verses 18, 38-39 says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us . . . Neither life nor death, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” When God’s Word talks to us about looking past pain, it’s not to deny the reality of what we may be experiencing today. Ninety percent of people who experience natural catastrophes believe things will be okay in the future. What that future might be—they don’t know. None of us know.
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Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s teaching pastor. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel’s many books include Spiritual Leadership Today: Having Deep Influence in Every Walk of Life (Zondervan, 2016). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.
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April 22, 2021
April 22, 2021