Monday, March 8, 2010

A few words on suffering....

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us." Romans 8:18

Our three year old son has allergies, eczema and the early signs and symptoms of asthma. By the looks of his medicine bin and diaper bag, you would be quick to believe that our boy is much sicker than he truly is (or that we are a tad overprotective). We carry epi pens, a rescue antihistamine, and an inhaler with a spacer attached that is, literally, the size of the kid's head.

About a year ago, while I was very pregnant (and very hormonal) with our youngest, a friend of ours called to discuss our spiritual beliefs on healing and what she believed to be the cause of our son's 'condition'. I, the hormonal mess that I was, immediately jumped on the defensive and was offended by her condescending tone and intrusive questions. Normally, I would have likely chosen to listen and simply answer, 'thank you for your concern. we'll consider that.' She is, after all, my sister in Christ and believed she was doing our family a great service by sharing her beliefs with us. But, instead, I foolishly decided to jab it out with her.

The Word clearly states that God does not willingly afflict His people with grief or suffering (Lam 3:33) and that through the stripes of Christ, we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5). Yet, we see in 2 Corinthians, Paul was inflicted with a thorn in his flesh to "keep [him] from becoming conceited" and when he asked God to remove the thorn, He answered "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). And most of us are familiar with the story of the blind man in John 9. The man was blind from birth and when the people asked Jesus if the blindness was a result of sin, He answered "... this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life" (John 9:1-3). The man then became witness to the power of Christ, as he was healed of his life-long affliction (John 9:6-7).

As believers, we know that the Word is irrefutable and pure (2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:20-21, Proverbs 30:5). So, what gives? What is the answer? Why do we continue to suffer?

I believe the answer lies in the story of Lazarus (John 11). Lazarus was the brother of Martha and Mary and became gravely ill. The Word says that "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days" (v. 5,6). When Jesus returns, Lazarus is dead and "had already been in the tomb for four days" (v. 17). His sisters, Martha and Mary, are upset and confused as to why Jesus did not come earlier and heal him of his affliction. In essence, they believed Christ allowed their brother to die. But as a result of Lazarus' passing came an even greater miracle, Christ raised him from the grave (v. 43).

In John 11:33, it states that Jesus was "deeply moved in spirit and troubled" upon the sight of Mary weeping for her brother. God is not unmoved by our pain and suffering. He loves us with a passion we cannot even fathom in the flesh. If He so chose, He could erase all pain, all suffering and all sin from the face of the Earth. Yet, He chooses not to. Why? Because He wants us to know the joy that comes with choosing to love Him and accepting the sacrifice of Christ.

The story of Lazarus draws a strikingly similar parallel to our lives in Christ. Lazarus put his faith and trust in Christ. He suffered and died in the flesh. Yet, through Christ, he was raised from death and restored to life.

If we look around us, we can see tiny miracles occurring everyday. Christ heals. God cares. We will eventually all be healed of every inequity and infirmity, regardless of whether healing comes in the flesh.

So, instead of picking up a bottle, popping a pill, or indulging in other worldly goods in response to suffering, perhaps we should turn to God and ask... "what can I learn from this? and, most importantly, "how can I use my suffering to help further your kingdom on earth?". We can find strength and comfort in knowing that He is our great deliverer and that His will and purpose will prevail. (Isaiah 48:17).