When we think of ‘Suffering’ we automatically associate it with negativity, pain, agony, sorrow, self-pity and abandonment; and ultimately something to avoid or insulate from.
Suffering does not so much make us helpless and out of control as it shows us we have always been vulnerable and dependent on God. Suffering merely helps us wake up to that fact and live in accordance with it.
Throughout the Gospel, suffering is a common theme; it is the inextricable base color thread woven through the fabric of the gospel.Jesus was a greatest example: as He stepped down from His Glory - by taking on the sin of the world through His sacrificial suffering on the cross - so that we could be clothed in it [Glory]. He was shut out so we could get access. He was bound, nailed, so that we could be free. He was cast out so we could approach.
Tim Keller in his book “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering” says: We must look at suffering – whatever the proximate causes – as primarily a way to know God better, as an opening for serving, resembling and drawing near to him as never before…. It is only if we make God’s glory primary in suffering that it will achieve our own.
Suffering has allowed me to draw closer to God, and to reflect on who I have become vs. who I need to be. I went on a solo retreat to uncover my weaknesses & [throw off] everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles my life [Heb 12:1]. I learned to rejoice in suffering within my sorrows; Learning that through my weaknesses & suffering, I have become more resilient to life’s drawbacks, I have learned to strengthen my important relationships, and to refocus my priorities on what matters most in life.
Would I have done so if everything in my life went according to how I planned it? Absolutely not!
And even though the sufferings we experience seem unbearable, I am comforted by what the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians “No trial has overtaken you that is not common to mankind. And God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can endure” (1 Cor 10:13).