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Suffering Series: When Suffering Seems Insurmountable
Nobody wants to remain in a state of suffering and there is still the power of God in our lives and there are still people who are healed. Why some are, and others aren’t, is a heated topic for discussion among theologians and the church.
Regardless, the fact is that we do suffer, and how we look at and handle that suffering makes a difference in our lives and the lives of those around us. Joni has some very deep thoughts and Scripture about this topic. Read carefully and allow God to speak to your own sufferings of life.
From Joni Eareckson Tada’s book, “Heaven, Your Real Home”
Over the phone, I could hear the puffing and wheezing of Lisa’s respirator as she labored to speak between breaths. “Joni, I don’t…..see why God….is putting me through….all this suffering….Why doesn’t He just take me home….now?”
I leaned my head against the receiver and wondered, for the thousandeth time, what to say. Lisa was a 21-year-old woman who became severely paralyzed as a result of an accident two and a half years earlier. I’d had many years in a wheelchair. Lisa, only a few. How could I expect her to grasp the things that had taken me ages to understand? What could I give or say to help?
“I’m a Christian,” Lisa continued, interrupting my thoughts. “Why do I….have to go through all…this?”
I used to ask myself that many times. Okay, I’ll accept this connection between hardship and heaven, but what if the hardship is insurmountable? Overwhelming? Unbearable? I’m paralyzed from the shoulders down, but Lisa is paralyzed from the neck down. She can’t even breathe on her own. How can one deal with so much frustration and affliction?
This young respirator-dependent quadriplegic is thrust out into a no-man’s-land, way ahead of the frontline trenches where most of us suffer. She has an arduous road ahead. When hurting people like her give God an inch, He always takes a mile. He wants those who suffer greatly to receive even greater glory.
There is a direct relationship between earth’s suffering and heaven’s glory.
I’m not glorifying suffering here. There’s no inherent goodness in Lisa’s spinal cord injury. There’s nothing applaudable about the agony. Problems are real, and I’m not denying that suffering hurts. I’m just denying that it matters in the grander scheme of things. It is light and momentary compared with what our response is producing for us in heaven, yes, suffering is pivotal to future glory. This places Lisa in that enviable position I mentioned earlier.
Let me explain. The greatest suffering that ever occurred happened on the Cross. And the greatest glory ever given in response to suffering was the glory ascribed to Christ when He ascended. He suffered “death on a cross…Therefore God exalted him to the highest place.” (Philippians 2:8-9) There is a direct correspondence between suffering and glory.
When the mother of James and John approached the Lord and asked if her sons could please enjoy a position of prominence in the kingdom of heaven, the Lord replied, “You don’t know what you’re asking.” Then He later said to her sons, “You will indeed drink from my cup.” (Matthew 20:23)
The Lord inferred that if His followers were to share in His glory, they would also have to share in His sufferings. And the deeper the suffering, the higher the glory. This is why the apostle Peter could say, “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” (I Peter 4:13).
Often the pain is mandatory, but the growth is optional. At the close of my phone conservation with Lisa I said, “If you remain faithful, despite the odds, it helps people like me more than you’ll ever know.”
A fellow with a disability once wrote, “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same suffering we suffer.” (2 Corinthians 1:5-6)
The fact that you hang in there does something for the rest of us Christians. I’m not talking about your being an inspiration. It’s more than that …. it’s a mystery. God somehow strengthens others by your faithfulness. You may feel like a burden to others, but God thinks the opposite. He thinks it’s necessary that others take care of you. You will be doing more for their spiritual well-being than you can imagine.”
Suffering always drives us in deeper and up higher.
This article is part of a series that begins here