In continuation of the theme of living a transformed life based on Romans 12, this post deals with the subject of enduring suffering in a patient manner. Romans 12:12b commands us to be “patient in affliction.” Not at all an easy thing to do. However, since the Bible calls us to submit to this command, this means it can be done—with the help of the Holy Spirit who empowers us to obey all of God’s commands—including this one.
The word “affliction” was used to describe grapes being crushed in the process of making wine as heavy pressure is applied. And the word, “patient” has the idea of staying firm, endure or persevere. Taken together, these words have the idea of staying calm even under intense pressure.
Typically, when we face suffering, we respond in one of three ways:
(a) Take a short-cut if possible
(b) Endure it with a negative attitude because we just can’t get out of it
(c) Endure patiently and wait for God to intervene in his own time and in his own way.
My prayer is that we will always choose the last option and thereby not only display obedience to this command in Romans 12:12, but in that process allow the Spirit to transform us to become more like Jesus since he endured all suffering in a patient and God-glorifying manner. How do we do it though? By looking at 6 motivations that will help us endure all kinds of suffering.
Motivation #1. Suffering breaks us so that we will seek God more in prayer.
Suffering reveals how weak we really are and how much we need the Lord. It strips us of trusting in ourselves for deliverance which is nothing but pride and causes us to cry out to God for deliverance. In fact, the very next phrase in Romans 12:12 is a call to prayer. Paul cried out to God in prayer for his thorn in the flesh issue [2 Cor 12:7-8]. Job’s suffering broke him and drew him closer to God. Same with us. Suffering has the ability to break us and thus draw us closer to God in prayer.
Two brothers were playing by a pond. The younger brother who put his paper boat to float on the pond to his dismay saw it move farther away. The older brother upon seeing it started throwing stones that fell past the boat to create ripple effects which eventually brought the boat closer to shore for the brother to pick it up. In the same way, God uses suffering to draw us closer to him in prayer.
Has God broken us yet? If so, are we softer after our trial than before the trial? Are we getting closer to God in prayer? If that is not happening, we can start afresh from now on. We can learn to see our suffering as God’s means to break us of our pride and draw us closer to himself. If not, we are wasting our suffering.
Motivation #2. Suffering proves the genuineness of our faith.
1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” How we respond when going through suffering reveals the nature of our faith.
Jesus tells us in Mark 4:17 when “trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they [i.e., false believers] quickly fall away.” However, Jesus also said that true believers are those who “by persevering produce a crop” [Lk 8:15]. In other words, when faced with suffering, false believers bailout while true believers persevere thus showing their faith is genuine.
How do we respond when going through suffering? If it’s not one of patient endurance, we need to start afresh from now on. We need to see our suffering as God’s means to help us test our faith—if it is genuine or not. Faith tested is the only faith that can be trusted. God’s love does not keep us from trials but sees us through them.
Motivation #3. Suffering helps us to be more compassionate toward others who are hurting.
By nature, we are people who are always rushing and don’t have much time to deal with problems of others. However, going through suffering helps us to pause and give time to others—to listen and cry with them if needed. We know how it is because we have been there. Moreover, we are also better equipped to comfort others.
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul calls us to praise God—who is also called the “Father of compassion” and “God of all comfort” because he “comforts us in all our troubles.” But Paul does not stop there. He goes to state the purpose of God comforting us, “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” The comfort we receive when going through suffering is for the purpose of comforting others!
A lady missionary to Pakistan wrote these words:
While my husband Frank and I were living in Pakistan many years ago, our six-month-old baby died. An old Punjabi who heard of our grief came to comfort. “A tragedy like this is similar to being plunged into boiling water,” he explained. “If you are an egg, your affliction will make you hard-boiled and unresponsive. If you are a potato, you will emerge soft and pliable, resilient and adaptable.” It may sound funny to God, but there have been times when I have prayed, “O Lord, let me be a potato.”
Let’s learn from our suffering and the ensuing comfort we receive to become softer in heart and take time to be a blessing to others who are hurting. Let’s learn to give time for the important things—things that really matter in life. Let’s learn to be a channel of God’s comfort to others. We have freely received God’s comfort; we are to give that comfort to others freely.
Do we do that? Has our suffering caused us to be more tender and kind toward others who are suffering? Do we take time to be with hurting people? To encourage and minister to their needs? If not, we can start now. We can see our suffering as God’s means to make us a blessing to others. If not, we are wasting our suffering.
So far, we’ve seen 3 motivations that will help us endure suffering:
Motivation #1. Suffering breaks us so will seek God more in prayer.
Motivation #2. Suffering proves the genuineness of our faith.
Motivation #3. Suffering strengthens the hope of our future glorification.
We will see the remaining 3 in the next post.
However, let me close with a couple of encouraging quotes from famous Christians from the past—Christians who were not strangers themselves to suffering as we learn to endure suffering in a God-glorifying manner.
“No faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs through adversity. Tested faith brings experience. You would never have believed your own weakness had you not needed to pass through trials. And you would never have known God’s strength had His strength not been needed to carry you through.” [Charles Spurgeon]
“You may never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.” [Corrie Ten Boom].