19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakuk 3:19)
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1:2-7)
What the Bible teaches about suffering:
1. Suffering Is A Test of Faith
Jesus said the servant is not above the master- I will suffer and you will suffer. Pagan religions were about appeasing the gods to avoid suffering. Christianity is not that at all, it is about how suffering is inevitable as a way of maturity.
As Christians, you should expect it. The problem is we live in a society that may be the worst in history for getting people ready for suffering. In every culture till now, throughout history societies have believed in a life to come. But we have deceived ourselves into believing that this is all there is to life. The result is an inevitable despair about life.
If you lose here in this life with this point of view, you’ve lost everything. WE are members of our culture and culture says if you suffer, you should sue. There is the idea in our culture that life should be perfect and that we are entitled to always get what we want and never fail.
This culture does not equip you for suffering at all. We are a crybaby culture.
2. Suffering Gives Perspective
“Consider it joy…”
The true emotion you feel when you suffer is not joy, it is sorrow. But the text says “consider it joy…” How is this possible? To consider something is to think about it, to give it lots of thought and to come to a conclusion. It is to think through the possible results of suffering.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
When this passage says that suffering should make you “mature and complete, not lacking anything”, it means “equipped for any job”
Paul was one of the smartest men who ever lived, and he wrote this:
2 Corinthians 4:17 New International Version
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
2 Corinthians 4:17 King James Bible
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
Paul said that God gave him a thorn so that he would not get the big head. In other words, “God made me suffer enough that I would get off my high horse.”
What perspective do we gain from our trials?:
- Trials give self knowledge
- Trials give empathy
- Trials give resilience
3. Suffering Requires Steadfastness
Notice, “Believe and not doubt”. What does that mean? Word “doubt” in this context means “doubleminded”. If you have to anything in the place of God, you are not anchored- you are not standing fast.
Jesus said build your house on the rock. What’s building on the sand? It is anything that has become your foundation that is not Jesus.
Anything we build our lives on that is not Jesus, will collapse on us.
Sometimes when suffering comes, it doesn’t make you a better person. It can make you vindictive, bitter, addictive, hard hearted and even proud.
The difference between suffering that leads to gold and the kind that leads to dross has to do with desires. If you love something more than God, your inordinate desire leads to sin. They “give birth to sin”
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)
The word here for “desire” is a word that means “overdesire”. Our over desires are what destroy us. The answer is to put Christ at the center of our heart- the one who will never disappoint. The one who took all of our suffering and injustice onto himself so that we wouldn’t have to in eternity. He drank the cup of wrath so that we could drink from the fountain of life.
- How is suffering viewed in Christianity?
- How is this different from other religions?
- Why is suffering considered a good thing in the Bible?
- Why is it important to consider the ramifications of suffering in a positive way according to the Bible?
- How does Jesus’ suffering comfort us in our suffering?
- How can suffering actually lead to joy?
- How does our suffering make us more self aware?
- How does suffering makes us more mature?
- How is suffering tied to our “over-desires”?
- How is the gospel the solution?