You might be experiencing a season of life marked by day-to-day happiness and overall ease. But I have bad news: the other shoe will drop. Life is not always going to be rainbows and butterflies.
When things are going well in life, whatever that might mean for each person, people tend to make assumptions about how life works. People assume that life consists of things going exactly to plan, and most aspects of life are good enough to maintain their current happiness. But, most people do not contemplate their lives being turned upside down. It’s unpleasant and uncomfortable, I know.
The other shoe will drop. Something will come into your life, and you will have to make sense of your suffering. Other people’s suffering does cause us pain, but what if you’re the one who gets sick, becomes disabled, gets divorced, and/or lose all your money? Are you prepared for suffering?
When the other shoe drops, your foundational beliefs are more important than you may think.
God Planned Your Suffering
God is sovereign.
Okay, churchy word, but it means that God is in complete control of everything, in and outside the Earth, from the smallest of moments to the largest events. We all attempt to control things, but we quickly realize we only have the illusion of control. We can’t even control our own actions, and you can not honestly say that you have perfect self-control. But, God does have complete control all things.
Naturally, you will ask the next question: if God is sovereign, why do we suffer? This is one of the most common objections to belief in God. If we believe what the Bible says (God is sovereign and He is good) then we have to be able to defend those claims. Even if this article did present all my beliefs on the subject, it would not satisfy everyone. So, I’ll answer a common follow-up question: Even if God is in control and somehow good, what’s the point of suffering?
Another big question, but there are two simple answers. First, some suffering is not understandable. It is insane to believe that me, a finite and flawed human being, would be able to understand all things. The second answer is that God uses our suffering for good. As an example, the Bible records the story of Joseph; Joseph’s brothers hated him, wanted to kill him, threw him into a pit to die, and after that, they sold him into slavery. Joseph would later say of the suffering his brothers inflicted,
”You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result — the survival of many people.”
They inflicted suffering on him, but God used it for good. God uses your suffering for a great purpose. God has made that clear. We only have three options how we respond to that truth.
You Have Three Options
When we suffer or know someone suffering, we are tempted to get angry at God. Because we don’t understand the point, we can lash out at our all-knowing God, and our physical presence can be poisoned by the anger we feel. When we experience suffering, we forget that God gives wisdom generously to us (James 1:5) and God is not to blame for our suffering (James 1:13-15). Anger towards God is sin, so I would not recommend going with this.
On the opposite side of anger, it is tempting to be distraught when suffering comes your way. Hopelessness can become easy to slip into, and I have experienced this myself. Sometimes the bad news never seems to end and it can begin to feel agonizing. Despair can only drive us further away from the hope God gives. The book of the Bible that is all about suffering, Job, ends in blessing and not despair (Job 40:10-17). Despair makes us give up, but God does not give up.
God allows suffering, and He allows us to be wounded for a purpose. Believing that God allows suffering for our good can be extremely hard, but when you do, it will only give you unimaginable peace and joy. You’ll experience this because you’ll experience more of God. Marshall Segal, writer and author, has said,
“Don’t be afraid to feel the pain in suffering, and to grieve the pain, but let it lead you to God, not away from him. He is wounding you with love, and pleading with you to run to him.”
God Wounds Us Because He Loves Us
Faith in God frees you from anger and despair.
The Church Loves You
When you experience suffering the Church is called to love you. The Church loves during times of ease and time of hardship, and this is because the Church is described in the New Testament as a family. Now, I know there are some who cringe at that because of your broken family, and some reading this are introverts who struggle with the intimacy of strangers becoming family.
This world is full of broken families with painful divisions, but God’s family is united through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. God’s family is full of adopted sons and daughters of every race, ethnicity, and language. This diverse yet unified family is saved only by the grace of God, and live their lives to worship God and love you. God’s family is called to love you in the midst of your suffering, and this manifests by living their lives with each other.
The early Church demonstrated what a loving family should look like. The book of Acts says that this brand new family heard God’s word together, lived around each other, ate together, prayed together, gave to the needy in the church, and enjoyed the diversity of people (Acts 2:42-37). Just as they did, the Church today is called to love you in the midst of your suffering.
When I was hospitalized with heart failure and needed to be life-flighted to a hospital in St. Louis, my church family got together and prayed for me. When I was in a coma for two months, my church family made sure someone was at the hospital every single day to be there for my wife. My first memory of consciousness was a couple from my church family praying over and with me. Throughout this whole time, my church family gave thousands of dollars to cover health care bills, and they even built me a ramp so I could get my wheelchair into the house. My church family was not perfect, but they loved my whole family in the midst of suffering. I’ll never be able to thank them enough.
When the other shoe drops will you believe that God is in control, respond in faith, and turn to the Church for support? I certainly hope so.
Jacob Luis Gonzales