How can a Christian have hope in suffering? That really is the question we need to ask. Not how can a Christian avoid suffering, not how can a Christian escape suffering in this life. The Bible tells us, as Christians, we will experience suffering. So the question we have to consider is how can we have hope in the midst of suffering? The Bible gives us a couple answers to that question that are very helpful. The first is that suffering is temporary. This life on this earth is described by James as a vapor. Paul tells us that the suffering we experience here in this world is light and momentary affliction. It feels to us sometimes like it goes on forever but the reality is, in the whole scope of eternity, our suffering is temporary and God has promised us an end to our suffering. There will come a day when there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more death, and no more suffering as we are with him in his presence forever.
The second thing we can remember to have hope in suffering is the character of our God. He is a good God and he allows these afflictions to befall us but he is not cruel or capricious. He is good. We can know that as our heavenly Father, he has a good purpose for the things he allows in our life. He has set the limits and the boundaries on the sufferings we experience. He is in control of those things.
That brings us to what is perhaps the most helpful reason we can have hope in suffering. That is, that God has a purpose for our suffering. He doesn't just put us in those situations for no reason. It's not just chaotic or accidental or coincidental or something that God loses control of. Romans 8:28 tells us that for those who love God and are called he works all things together for good. The following verses tell us what that good is. It's not that we would have a happy life necessarily, it's not that we would be comfortable, but the greatest good God has for us is to make us into the image of his Son, to make us more like Jesus Christ. To know that God is doing a good thing in me and in the lives of others through my suffering really gives us immense hope in suffering. That good is that God is making me more like Christ and to bring glory to his name.
Daniel Ruben (MDiv, Midwestern Baptist) is a pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Carson City, NV. He is husband to Shaelby and father of two.
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