I recently had some conversations with some friends who has a different understanding of suffering than I do. It’s been good for me to think about what I believe and why I believe it. The prosperity teaching seems to be everywhere we turn these days. I’ve often felt confused as I listen to some of the teaching. Can I really make my life better by saying positive words or believing only good should come to me? We could all agree that life is hard! Suffering is inevitable! We grow through our suffering! BUT here’s the question at hand. Does God cause suffering? Many I have recently met would say no.
First, let me say, that I, in no way, believe that all suffering is from God. I do not believe God causes abuse or all sickness or pain. But I do believe in a process called brokenness that God uses to conform HIS children into the image of Christ. I believe it because I see it in His word, I have experienced brokenness many times and I have watched many believers walk through their own journey to the cross. That terminology may be foreign to you. I know years ago I was asked, “Have you been to the cross?” I had no idea what they were talking about. Jesus had a journey to His cross that involved many things. Some of the things He experienced was humiliation, suffering and loss. Many times in our own personal journey to the cross we experience the same thing. When I say our personal journey to the cross I mean, a time that we are understanding and experiencing our co-crucifixtion with Christ, coming to the end of our self and embracing our true identity. (Gal. 2:20, Romans 6) A time when we feel out of control.
Let me give you a good definition for brokenness (from the AELM ADT). Brokenness is the process whereby a believer’s coping mechanisms are nullified, the bankruptcy of the flesh is fully revealed, and the self-life is exchanged for the Christ’s life. Another way to say the same thing is that God is bringing a person to the end of their self strength so that they can be completely dependent upon God. Why is this important? Did you know that God never created human beings with the capacity to handle the type of stress and pain that this life offers? The sooner we figure out that we cannot handle pain in our self strength, the sooner we will cry out to God and give it to Him. HE then takes it and uses the pain to conform us into the person HE created us to be. I believe with all my heart that we are created body, soul and spirit. Our spirit determines our identity! When we accept Christ He comes to dwell in our spirit! What is true about Jesus is true about me and you! WE are holy, righteous, acceptable, loving, forgiving etc. But do we always ACT that way? Exactly! God begins a process of conforming us in our Soul and Body, so that what is true in our Spirit becomes true in our experience.
Are you as stubborn as me? Do you try to make things work your way over and over and over? I know I can sometimes resemble the Israelites a little too much! God lovingly allows MY way to not work so that I will sooner than later discover His way. And it is His desire to live His life through me. It is His desire to handle my problems through me. It is His desire to be so intimate with me that I experience my oneness with Him in every aspect of my life. But when my ways don’t work, I often experience pain. And by the way, if my ways don’t cause me pain, would I ever give up on them?
My husband has been one that can bring me back to truth when I stray. I can get so caught up in the pain of this world I will cry out, “Why is God allowing this?” He will say, “Rebekah, it isn’t about this world!” Do you realize that our time here on earth is a very small part of eternity? Another perspective that God has been showing me is that his definition of “good” is not always my definition of “good.” Can pain in my life be producing something very good in my character? Can disillusionment bring me to a dependence on Christ that I never had before? What is the worse thing that can happen to a believer? Death? Is that good or bad? We will be in the presence of Jesus with no pain forever and ever and ever if we experience death!
Does God care about our pain? YES! God loves to meet us IN our pain. He loves to comfort us, speak to us, grow us up in our pain. Is the enemy involved in our pain? Yes, many times he sticks his nose where it does not belong. Listen to what Joseph said in Genesis 50, “”As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Could more be going on behind the scenes when I am in pain? This makes me disagree with some teaching that we should rebuke it, deny it and send it away in the name of Jesus.
Trust me, I don’t like pain any more than any one of you reading this blog. But I’m learning to ask God for discernment when I am in pain. “Father, is this something I should rebuke or are you working in my life through this pain?” It actually makes my seasons of pain easier to go through when I understand that my loving Heavenly Father is working to produce IN me something very very good. II Corinthians 4:17 & 18 says, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (Part two will bring more scriptures about who causes pain.)