Is A Christian Supposed to Suffer?

It’s almost 4:00 in the morning, and I’ve been wide awake and unable to sleep. I should be tired, but I’m wide awake and haven’t been to bed yet. I think I’m all turned around because I’ve been up all night every night for the last month, due to acute pain. Tonight is different, though. The acute pain has subsided. Praise God!

Photo Credit: http://www.dynamicchiropractic.com

I’ve been suffering from chronic, constant back pain for the last two years, and I let me tell you, I DO NOT LIKE PAIN. Okay, so most people don’t like pain, but I just needed to get that off my chest. Anyway, I’ve been in constant pain, due to spinal stenosis, spondylosis, spinal arthritis, bulging discs, and scoliosis, and it has been getting progressively worse. On various occasions throughout this time, I’ve also suffered from flare-ups, when the pain would become sharp and relentless.

It’s been so bad that I am no longer able to work, because I’m no longer dependable. Those who know me, know that I am a very responsible, dependable person. If I say that I will be somewhere at a certain time, you can count on me being there a few minutes early. It was the same with my job. Prior to my chronic back pain, I was always at work on time, and for the most part, I enjoyed my job. However, as time went on, I began to lose sleep at night, and it was harder and harder for me to get up at 5:30am and get ready for work. As the pain continued and especially during flare-ups, I began missing work, and  I found it increasingly difficult to be on time.

Photo Credit: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/figures/A00626F01.jpg

Walking from the parking lot, down the stairs to the time clock and then to my office became a constant struggle, during which I would pray, “Lord, please help me. Lord, please let me be able to take the next step…” I went back and forth to see my doctor, who in turn sent me for x-rays, an MRI, lab work, and physical therapy. When the therapy failed to work, she then sent me to a pain management clinic, and they gave me spinal injections, which helped at first, but eventually, like the therapy, they were no longer effective.

This has been a real struggle for me, and I’ve battled with depression off and on, but thank God, the depression never lasts for long, because the Lord is with me, speaking to me and encouraging me throughout this ordeal. I wondered if my pain could be an attack from the devil, but the Lord spoke to me and let me know that He is in control, and that my pain is not an attack from the devil, but part of His will, and that this is something that I need to walk through with Him.

Photo Credit: http://chernjam.blogspot.com/2011/06/trinity-sunday-for-god-so-loved-world.html

Now, that may be a difficult concept for people to grasp, that a loving God would not only allow one of His children to suffer from pain, but that He would even ordain it. However, I want you to consider this… Jesus is God’s only begotten Son. Sure, those of us who are born again Christians are His children, but Jesus was His beloved Son, in whom God was well pleased, and yet… God ordained Jesus’ suffering. He ordained His pain. Indeed, God ordained Christ’s death. And we know that God had a good plan and purpose for ordaining it. 

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

(John 3:16 NKJV)

Photo Credit: http://www.venerable.co/2012/08/obedient-to-point-of-death.html

God wanted to save the world, and the only way to do that was to allow His Son to suffer, bleed and die a horrible death on the cross, and out of the depths of His love for mankind (you and me) He ordained it, and Jesus gladly went along with this plan. Isn’t that amazing? Jesus knew that He was going to have to suffer the most horrible pain that we can imagine, and He not only agreed to do it, He joyfully, willingly allowed Himself to be the sin sacrifice for all of mankind.

 Though He was God, He did not demand and cling to His rights as God. He made Himself nothing; He took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form He obediently humbled Himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross…

(Philippians 2:6-8 NLT)

Can you imagine that? The King of kings and the Lord of lords, left all of His splendor, all of His glory and riches behind, to become the Son of a peasant woman, who had no riches. He chose to be born at a time in history when there was no running water, no indoor plumbing, no air-conditioning in the summer, no heat in the winter. He chose to be born in a rough, dirty stable, rather than in an accredited hospital. And He was willing to do all of this because of the joy that would be His afterward.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His afterward. Now He is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven.

(Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT)

Photo Credit: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-joy-set-before-him-jamey-lee–balester-lopez.html

Do you know what His joy was? He took great joy in knowing that because of His suffering and death on the cross, I would be saved. He took great joy in knowing that men, women and children throughout the ages would hear about what He had done for them, and they would turn away from their sins and cry out to Him for salvation. Isn’t that wonderful? He did all of that for us! Sure, He knew that some of you wouldn’t want anything to do with Him. He knew that some would completely reject Him, just as many did when He hung on the cross, but still, He gladly did it, knowing that one day some of us would come to know Him, love Him and serve Him.

So what does all of this have to do with my back pain? If God ordained that Jesus should suffer, why do so many people think that we should be exempt from it? Think about it… Peter, James, John and all the rest of Jesus’ disciples suffered greatly for the cause of Christ. They were tortured mercilessly, and suffered horrific deaths. According to church history:

  1. Peter was hung upside down on a cross.
  2. Paul was beheaded.
  3. James was put to death with a sword. (He was likely beheaded)
  4. John was put in a cauldron of boiling oil, though this did not kill him
Photo Credit: http://www.oneglory.org/2010/05/god-suffering-2-why-do-i-suffer.html

As you can see, the early Christians suffered terribly. Indeed, Christians in other countries around the world are persecuted and suffer terribly, so how is it that American Christians have come to believe that they are exempt from suffering? Indeed, whenever someone suffers from chronic pain, diseases or other illnesses, some self-righteous Christians question whether the person who is suffering has sinned or whether they do not have enough faith.

I submit to you that these Christians who claim that it isn’t God’s will for Christians to be sick or to suffer do not know what they’re talking about, because sometimes it is God’s will for some people to suffer for reasons that we don’t know. You see, God doesn’t think like we think.

 “My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the LORD. “And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

(Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT)

I’m not even going to pretend to understand why God has ordained me to suffer with chronic back pain, or for how long I will have to deal with it. I don’t know if this is temporary, and it will pass, or if it will continue for the rest of my life. Either way, I will continue to love and serve God. Maybe this sounds strange to you, but when the Lord spoke to my heart that He had ordained my suffering, and that I would have to walk through it, I found great solace in that.

Photo Credit: http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc6/196826_10151328854284939_303629560_n.jpg

You see, although I HATE being in pain, when I learned that God had ordained it, I realized that this was not some terrible random thing that has happened to me. When I learned that God had ordained this pain, I knew that my back pain is part of His plan for me, and even though I don’t know why it has to be this way, He can be trusted, because He will make this work out for my good, because I love Him and I am called according to His purpose. When I realized that God had ordained my pain, I realized that I am not alone. He is with me, and He can be trusted to take care of me.

This post didn’t go where I thought it would go, but I believe this is what God wants His people to understand. Are you a man or woman of God? Are you suffering from an illness, or disease, or pain? If so, don’t just assume it’s an attack from the devil. Sometimes we give him more credit than he deserves. Ask God if your pain, illness or disease is ordained by Him, for His glory? If it is, rejoice in it, because that just means that He’s got a marvelous plan for the furtherance of His kingdom.

In closing, I leave you this final scripture to hold in your heart:

 So if you are suffering according to God’s will, keep on doing what is right, and trust yourself to the God who made you, for He will never fail you.

(1 Peter 4:19 NLT)

© 2013
Cheryl A. Showers

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