5 Ways To Suffer Well

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5 Ways To Suffer Well

 

By Shela Ervin
 
In your home, how big is God? In your home, through the eyes of your children, how trustworthy is he? How involved is your God? How near is he?
 
The saying goes that when you are squeezed by life’s trials, what comes out of you reflects what was inside. An accurate picture of your character, your values, and your trust will be evidenced by your response to suffering. We may preach one set of truths, but unless our lives evidence the weight and texture of those truths, our teaching will be in vain.
 
Training up our children into Christ is one part proclaiming the truth and another part modeling it. As the apostle Paul reminded Timothy to keep a close watch on his life and doctrine, we, too, as parents, must watch our lives closely.
 
When the inevitable waves of trial and difficulty touch your family, what portrait of God will be painted by your response? Will your children walk away with greater or less confidence in the God of the Bible? While we cannot manufacture a perfect response, we can and should absolutely resolve and pray for godliness to mark our lives as our children watch and learn.
 

Acknowledge the Lord’s hand.

In all things, God sovereignly rules. We know that every detail in creation is ordained by him. When suffering comes, we may be tempted to blame other people or other factors, lest God be seen as unjust or without control.
 
But God does not need us to excuse him from his sovereign rule. He is completely in control of every painful detail, and he is wisely working it out for his higher purposes. As we acknowledge the Lord’s hand in all of our difficulties, our children will learn a higher view of God.
 

Move toward God and not away from him.

When suffering, we may be tempted toward bitterness at our situation, and perhaps even at the Lord. But it is foolish to suffer away from our loving Father. Wisdom draws us toward his hand, whether it is a hand of loving discipline, or of comfort and compassion.
 
Even while in great distress and complaint, King David drew near to God, and not away from him. He complained in faith, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? … But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation” (Ps. 13:1, 5). David’s example in Scripture reminds us that the right place to be at all times is in God.
 

Preach truth to your heart and pray it back to God.

When faced with conflict, grief, or any other trial, our internal conversations can be very telling, revealing the true object of our hope and trust. Our emotions often remain in an echo chamber, moving across the range of sorrow, to stress, to anger, and beyond.
 
What an opportunity trial gives us to model for our children the art of emotional self-control. This is our opportunity to flex the muscle of preaching the truth when our feelings aren’t there. It is the discipline of letting the truth reign over all other sensations.
 
Remember King David, who said, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Ps. 42:5-6). If your heart does not feel in accordance with the truth about God in your suffering, preach it anyway. Your feelings will follow.
 

Remember Christ’s sufferings.

Suffering naturally bends our eyes down and into the details of our pain. It points a magnifying glass at our situation and puts blinders up on the lives of others. This is where we need to be reminded that our great high priest, Jesus, himself, knows every pang. His suffering on the cross was ultimate.
 
He knows what it is to be hated and shamed, forsaken by his closest friends. Jesus knows the agony of physical pain. Jesus knows true injustice, slander, and malice. Jesus tasted death in the bitterest way. And because of his suffering, Jesus truly knows yours.
 
Remembering Christ’s sufferings means knowing true compassion from our Lord. But it also means remembering the path he paved through death to glory by his resurrection from the dead. When suffering, take care not to forget this path forged by your head, Jesus Christ!
 

Build a right theology of suffering.

Remembering Christ’s path through suffering and subsequent victory over death, resolve to understand pain and suffering the way Jesus does. The world without God tells us that suffering should be marked and avoided at all costs, and that there is nothing good in it.
 
But our Lord tells us through James 1:2 to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Likewise, Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:6-7, that, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith … may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ).
 
In our flesh, rejoicing is the last thing we expect to do in the face of suffering. But by the power of the Spirit in us, we (and our children) have a chance to see the genuineness of our faith on display.
Suffering well may very well till the soil for gospel confidence in the hearts and minds of our children. And more than that, it brings glory to God.

Shela is a happy helpmate to her husband in gospel ministry, mom to two young ones, and creates goods & resources with hopes to strengthen Kingdom families into Christ until he comes.
 

Further Reading:

“An Open Letter To The Suffering Christian”: https://www.ccef.org/open-letter-suffering-christian

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