Imagine you’re nearing the end of a long plane trip…The flight attendants are collecting everyone’s trash and putting up tray tables and taking care of the details necessary for landing. You’re rubbing your bleary eyes and dreaming of a shower. And the captain comes on the intercom and says, “Flight attendants, take your seats. Please buckle your seatbelts, and brace for impact! We’re about to hit some turbulence on the way down.” That’s the image that comes to my mind when I think of what I want to talk to you about today – it’s a topic where you have to brace for impact a little bit. But I’m going to tell you what it is. Are you ready? Suffering.
Yeah, I know…that’s one we hate to talk about. But suffering is part of the human condition, and there’s just no way around it. Our culture tries to do everything it can to avoid it…but everyone suffers in this life.
Besides the fact that it happens to everyone, there’s another universal truth about suffering: suffering is transformational.
When a person suffers, it changes them. But it doesn’t change us all in the same ways.
When we face suffering, we can allow God to make us stronger and better. But for many of us, we don’t allow God to lead us through suffering. Instead, suffering’s long-term fruit becomes harmful and negative for us. We end up bitter and doubtful of God. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Although suffering is inevitable, its effects are not. Only you can choose how to process your own situation.
You see, with Jesus, suffering becomes an opportunity for grace. Think about how every autumn, leaves fall from the trees and lay, dead, on the ground until they decompose and turn to mulch…but those dead leaves become compost. They become fertile ground where other seeds take root and grow. And when the spring comes, new life pushes up through those dead leaves.
In the same way, when we see our suffering through the lens of God’s infinitely good purposes and will, we don’t always know all answers as to why we are going through hard times. But suffering becomes transformational when we ask God to bear fruit in our lives through the process. And those very places we thought were dead, pointless, meaningless, become the fertile ground for God to do a new work in and through us.Suffering becomes transformational when we ask God to bear fruit in our lives through the process. Click To Tweet
Believe it or not, the Almighty can transform our suffering into our greatest asset. I know that sounds crazy. But it is absolutely true.
I went through that in my own life, while I was still very young. I loved my mother dearly. But I was only 20 when I found out she was dying of cancer, and we lost her 24 months after her diagnosis. Our family struggled to make sense of it; we experienced more pain than we had ever known before. Nothing could prepare us for that suffering and grief.
Now, looking back on these experiences, I still grieve. And I can see how my awareness of Jesus radically affected my understanding. I allowed Him to do a work in me as a result of my pain and loss. And instead of making me bitter, my suffering became a proving ground for my faith.This loss became a launching pad for my compassion for others’ pain. It became a way I understood God’s sacrifice of His son, totally undeserved, for my sin.
As hard as it is for us to wrap our minds around, suffering is at the core of the Christian message. The greatest suffering known to humanity was the cross of Jesus Christ. And I’m not just talking about the physical stress and torment Jesus endured either, but also the spiritual anguish of hell on earth.
But Jesus’ suffering on the cross was transformed by the reality of God’s plans. Jesus knew that his Father would bring beauty, purpose and redemption from his suffering. He trusted God. His work on the cross gave way to the resurrection. And untold millions have been blessed through Jesus’ unimaginable suffering.Jesus’ suffering on the cross was transformed by the reality of God's plans. Click To Tweet
In the midst of the trials and issues we face, Jesus is the One (and only One!) who completely understands our suffering and sympathizes with our weaknesses. He knows exactly what we are going through, and He reminds us that He bore the sins of the world on the cross…every struggle, every trial…He knows it all, and He did it for us.
Jesus can handle our issues, whether we feel they are great or small. He’s not afraid of our tears. He bears our burdens and makes our suffering life-giving. It’s a totally amazing thing that Jesus does for us.
So I ask you, are you letting Jesus transform the suffering you’re facing right now? Are you letting Him turn your suffering into an opportunity for God’s glory?
We will all suffer in this life…But with Jesus, we can be confident resurrection follows crucifixion. God often blesses us through suffering in unbelievable ways. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is worth it if we let God do His work in us – and trust Him.