Monday, 02 June 2014 16:49

Should Christians Expect to Suffer?

Written by  Nancy W. Thomas, M.A., N.C.C., C.C.M.H.C., L.P.C.
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What does Paul say about suffering in his letter to the Romans?  His letter and example illuminates us so much about suffering, even for the faithful. 



Romans 5:3-5 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4) endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5) and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (RSV)  



Paul states that not only we will we experience suffering, but that suffering will be good for us!  Wait….doesn’t living a Christian life make us immune to severe suffering?  No, in fact the opposite is true. Jesus tells us that, as Christians, we will struggle, get sick, suffer trauma, make mistakes, experience weakness, and all of the human experiences in this world. 



John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (NIV)



However, we can endure, develop character and become hopeful. In John, Jesus says he will send the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, to dwell in us, comfort us and give us peace.



John 14:16-17 And I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, 17)  even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you. (RSV) 



John 14: 26-27 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27) Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (RSV)



Embracing difficulties knowing that we will experience blessings can give us peace and reduce anxiety through times of difficulty.  The reward for perseverance through grace is wisdom, peace, humility, compassion, character, endurance, hope, understanding, faith and much more. Have you gained wisdom, insight, understanding or a skill you could not have expected previously? Can you see that you have been blessed after difficulty?  Every experience we have is an opportunity to develop maturity and wisdom which are blessings of grace. 



James 1:2-4  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. (NIV)



James 1:12  Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (NIV)



We were created as spiritual creatures and our deep heart’s desire to be in communion with the Lord through the Holy Spirit. Through our profound reliance on Him, we find His love never fails, never abandons, always forgives and His grace is always available.  The result of reliance on the Lord is a peace that passes all understanding.  It may not be a path of continual worldly success but a path of multiple trials and failures that bring us closer to him. 


In Philippians, Paul reminds us to not be anxious about anything but to pray and trust the Lord to answer our needs.  When we do that, we will have the peace which transcends all understanding.  This peace is provided by the Holy Spirit which dwells within us.



Philippians 4:6-7Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  7) And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (RSV)



If Jesus promised us that we will suffer, why is it so difficult for us as Christians to admit when we are suffering?  Why do we feel shame?  Why do we fear being genuine with our Christian brothers and sisters?  Why is there a stigma when we experience depression, anxiety, discouragement, illness or problems in relationships?  As Christians, Jesus’ example shows that we should embrace, welcome and walk alongside those of us who are struggling in our communities.


In addition to the grace offered through the blessings of the Holy Spirit and our communities of faith, other resources are available to us.  Pray for guidance and wise counsel. Seek professional counseling where your mind, body and spirit will acknowledged and your faith will be recognized as a powerful resource for you. 


Allow the grace of the Lord to fill your hearts and minds and give you peace.



Last modified on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 16:52
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