How Should We Handle Suffering?
The following is a guest blog written by hospice Chaplain Paul Bricker to Christians on a hospice team after an unusually difficult week.
There are many things that can trouble us: trouble with one's marriage, trouble with children and/or grandchildren, trouble with relationships, trouble at work, trouble with finances, trouble with weather (did anyone ever hear of a derecho prior to this past summer?), trouble with one's health or the health of a loved one…. The list can go on and on….
Jesus has an answer for all our troubles in life: "Let not your heart be troubled" (John 14:1). This verse should be seen as a billboard: "LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED." Why should our hearts be trouble free? The answer is the rest of what Jesus says in that verse: "Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me" (John 14:1). We need to give ourselves more and more to Jesus. We need to trust our Savior more and more. We need to fall in love with the Savior more and more.
In life there are times when we are hit by many troubles at once. The Apostle Paul writes about a time when he was overwhelmed by trouble: "For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life…" (2 Cor.1:8). How many times are we troubled so much that we can say with the Apostle Paul that "we despaired even of life"? Paul confesses how terrible the trouble had fallen upon him. He continues: "But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us…" (2 Cor. 1:9-10). What hope!!!
This is the same message that Jesus is giving in John 14:1: "Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me." The only way to endure the stresses of life's trouble is to get to know the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. I see myself upheld by a thread of grace. When I pluck that thread with my finger, I find that thread is incredibly strong. I am thankful!!! I am amazed!!! The only way to endure the troubles of this life is not to trust myself, but to trust the One who raises the dead!!! When I am neck up in the troubles of this world and attempting to minister to others who themselves are neck up in the troubles of this world, the key is to know my Savior. Isaiah writes about the coming Savior: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…”(Isa. 61:1). I have experienced that loving Savior's touch of my broken heart… I have seen how Jesus has touched others' broken hearts…. When neck up in the troubles of this world, I have been ministered to by “the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.” Thank God that God is the One "who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ" (2 Cor. 1:3-5).
As a hospice chaplain, I have been hit by trainloads of suffering. I refuse to see myself as a grief victim. I see myself as a "grief eater." By God's grace, God processes those trainloads of suffering into trainloads of comfort for others!!! That is the miracle of the gospel!!! Another way to view it is that I see myself (as a hospice chaplain) as a "Spiritual Pac-man." The trainloads of grief hit me—I eat the negative energy of grief and out comes the positive energy of comfort for others. Again, this is the miracle of the gospel!!! This is one way to become Christ for others. I must preach the gospel to my own heart. I must fall in love with my Savior moment by moment. If you hear me cry out, be patient with me—God is processing another trainload of suffering. The suffering is real, and the comfort is real! Even Pac-man would occasionally bite into something that would make him pause, … change colors,…and (if I remember that game correctly) belch. Then Pac-man would keep going!
Jesus says in John 14:1-2: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me." Jesus goes on and fleshes out why we should not be troubled. Jesus says: "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." No matter how much trouble we have in this life, if one puts one's trust in the Lord Jesus, there is going to be a resurrection and those who believe in Jesus will be granted eternal life. The Apostle Paul writes: "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom 8:18). If one puts one's suffering on a scale and puts the glory which shall be revealed on the other side of the scale, the resurrection glory far outweighs the sufferings we are going through. Sometimes when I am in the caldron of grief and suffering, I say to myself: "This is awful." Then I look beyond the grief and suffering and say: "But the glory which is coming is awe full!!!" This is the resurrection hope!!! We need to look beyond our present suffering to the glory that will occur.
In the last verse Jesus says: "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:3). This crystallizes our hope. Jesus has died, been raised, He went bodily to heaven, and He is at this time preparing a place for us. Jesus says: "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself." We will be with Him after He comes again. We who are believers will be raised from our graves and at the last judgment be granted life eternal. This is our resurrection hope!!! We need to look beyond our present sufferings. No matter how terrible our present sufferings are. The glory that will be revealed will far outshine those sufferings.
 All Bible references are from the KJV.