How Do You Respond to Suffering?
Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)
"Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
I have experienced much double-mindedness in the church when it comes to the topic of suffering. A large percentage of churches never mention the word "suffering" from the pulpit because the focus is on Jesus as HEALER and as such the teaching is that there should be no more suffering because "by His Stripes we are healed."
In a perfect world; an un-fallen and untainted world...yes.. Sadly, that is not our reality. We live in a fallen world filled with sin, evil, sickness and disease with physical death being a reality for all of us.
Don't misunderstand me, I believe 100% that God is able to heal me any minute of any day that He chooses! My difficulty is that there is not proper, balanced teaching between healing and suffering being taught in our churches.
To negate suffering is to negate large passages of the Bible. As hard and uncomfortable a topic as suffering is, it is a topic that must be addressed because it is as real as the air all of us breathe. Some people go through life relatively unscathed by suffering which results in little tolerance for those whose path is different. Some remain empathetic, but they are sadly in the minority.
I am one of those people whose path is suffering. I was born with Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy, I have known nothing but suffering since the moment I struggled to take my first breath. I have undergone and endured 16 surgeries, 4 of which failed, resulting in chronic pain which began at the age of 22. Pain triggers muscle spasms and muscle spasms trigger pain. It is an unrelenting and vicious cycle. As I get older, it has resulted in losses of function (I can no longer walk independently and I use a 4 wheeled walker and wheelchair) and the chronic pain is now an ever escalating cycle of pain and spasms. I have spasms so severe that they subluxate my kneecaps (shift them out of track and almost dislocate them completely). Recently, I had spasms right up into my hip flexors which caused my entire hip and pelvis region to lockdown. I could not walk. One ambulance ride later and I was admitted to the hospital for 19 days. I returned home yesterday.
I share that not to obtain pity or even sympathy. I share that because DESPITE the pain, I am not negative or depressed. I have maintained my sense of humour and rally with a cry of "ONWARDS...REGARDLESS!"
My response is scriptural...let us look again at today's passage because it proves that suffering has a very definite purpose! Suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character. Character produces HOPE and HOPE is never put to shame. My day of healing is coming, but it may not be on this earth. Instead it may be at the time of release from this mortal body into a glorified body which my mind cannot conceive of...the choice is the Lord's and I defer to His wisdom and perfect timing.
Until then, I choose to REJOICE in my sufferings because of the FRUIT that it has produced and is producing in my life. For the Glory of God and His Kingdom, I gladly take up my cross and follow Jesus, who suffered far more than I can ever truly conceive of.