No one is exempt from experiencing suffering. We cannot work hard enough, be a good enough person, follow special rules, read our Bibles enough, or go to church enough to avoid struggle. Those who live in this sin-filled and broken world will experience pain and difficulty. Jesus promised in Scripture that we would experience troubles, but the Christian is not to lose heart because Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).
The Lord created this world perfectly. Then, after everything was made, he declared it "very good" (Genesis 1:31). The stars, trees, sea creatures, and human beings were created in order, with purpose, and without mistake. But after Adam and Eve ate what they believed would make them more like God, they were filled with sin—they ceased being good. This sin would affect not only them but the entire world. So this world now groans for total restoration at the final coming of the Messiah.
We can often see some light at the end of the tunnel during our suffering, which empowers us to persevere and endure even during intense trials. But what happens when we have been undergoing pain, distress, and hardship for days, weeks, months, or even years? What happens when it feels like the suffering does not end? This is when we often lose hope; but there is always hope for God’s children.
We have been given the gift of God’s Word, and in it, we learn more of who he is. We see God as trustworthy and dependable. He keeps his Word. That means every promise he has given us will be upheld because he is “not a man that he should lie” (Numbers 23:19). Another truth we find is the fact that God is eternal. He has no beginning or end, remaining the same yesterday, today, and forever. Our God does not change, securing his trustworthiness.
Circumstances rarely stay the same for too long, and our emotions fluctuate. However, we can cling to the truth that God remains the same through every event of life and every wavering emotion. When the suffering lingers, we may have the temptation to reach out for help in places that look promising but could never give what our heart needs. Trusting in anything other than Christ is dangerous. All other ground is sinking sand! God is our rock, and when we stand on him, we will not slip (Psalm 18:2).
A truth that helps us cling to God’s trustworthiness is that God is all-powerful. He has the ability to keep every Word he gives. Psalms 147:5 says, "Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure." We may not understand the Lord's plan, and we may not see any light or straight paths before us, but great is our Lord. Reading God's promises in Scripture can be a balm to our soul. His Word does not fail. Our God is trustworthy!
There is always something to be thankful for. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to forget the good when we are encountering hardships. The Lord knew this about the Israelites. This is why he instructed them to make an Ebenezer (rock of help) in 1 Samuel 7:12. He commanded his people to create memorial stones that would serve as physical reminders of what God had done for them. Why would God tell his people to make stones of remembrance? They needed to remember! We, too, need the reminder to rehearse the good God has done for us. When we have been struggling for a long time, we often become preoccupied with difficulties. Yet, God has done marvelous things that are worth his glory and praise.
I often think back to when the Lord rescued me from a horribly abusive environment and placed me in a loving and Christian space. He then put God-fearing people in my life and began to heal the painful wounds in my heart. I did not believe God could ever rescue me or heal me in the way that he did. And even more, he saved my soul! I bet some truths about God can become your memorial stones. So, if you have some Ebenezers, look at them and remember God’s goodness.
Another thing to remember is the promised renewal. Isaiah 40 says, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.” Waiting is hard. But waiting is what we do while we are enduring suffering. What comes with waiting on God is a power that is given to the faint, increased strength, the ability to run and not be weary, and the ability to walk and not faint. We can recall and repeat these promises to ourselves because they are true. God will sometimes leave us in a trial, but he never leaves us without something good to remind ourselves that will encourage our souls.
Sometimes under challenging conditions, we get the idea that we need to “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.” We may say to ourselves, “Enough with this! I am going to fix it. I am going to make myself strong in the suffering.” But the reality is that we are human and frail. We can't make ourselves strong; we cannot pull ourselves up by our bootstraps (Psalm 103:14).
The redeeming thing about this is that God never calls us to strengthen ourselves. God is the one who gives assistance to his children. He is the one whose power is made perfect in our weakness. This is why Paul said, "I will boast in my weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). When we are in the thick of trial, we have something to boast about. Our God is mighty, and because he is strong, we don't have to be.
We have been given the privilege to go before the throne of grace with messy hair, snot, tears, and heavy feelings. We read many of the Psalms, where the psalmist does not bring God beautiful flowery words. Instead, he brings God his desperation, sorrow, and fear (Psalm 88 and Psalm 39 are great examples of this). The psalmists are doing what Jesus would later tell his disciples to do: “Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Our job isn’t to become stronger or to strive better, but simply to go to Jesus and trust.
Our answer to the weariness that comes with prolonged suffering is to behold God. He is our True North, the one we look to when the trials are complex and lengthy. God will not forget or forsake us in the storms of life. What he has begun in us, he will finish (Philippians 1:6). Jesus leads us and will help us to the very end. He walks alongside us and calls us to lay our cares on him (1 Peter 5:7). When we are weak and heavy-laden, he gives the rest our soul desires.
Though we may suffer, there is hope. Our God is eternal, powerful, never-changing, and will provide strength that will never fail. We may grow weary, but we have a place to look when our legs have no more strength. We look to Jesus. He gives himself and will never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:8). Thus, there is hope even when suffering does not seem to end.
Image Credit: Emilee Carpenter