2020 5/12 #31 - Suffering and Meaning
Suffering without meaning is what brings about despair. The human psyche seems to need to attach meaning to our suffering in order for us to endure it. And for the Christian - God supplies us with reasons to never despair, but to know that all of our suffering - no matter the source or cause, is NEVER meaningless.
We’ll look at that a bit more today on Through the Word in 2020. I’m Reid Ferguson - welcome.
Today we’re reading Mark 10:13–16; 2 Corinthians 4:7–18 and 2 Samuel 2:12–4:12
But it is the passage in 2 Corinthians that speaks directly to the issue of suffering in the Christian life.
Quite frankly, the portrait of the Christian life given in vss. 7-12 is so foreign to our Americanized Western Christianity as to be as unrecognizable as it is most often rejected out of hand. The picture painted is of a people constantly or at least repeatedly brought to the end of themselves by circumstances of every kind. But the text doesn’t stop there. There is a wonderful little word in the Greek that shows up more than 600 times in the New Testament. It’s often the very point of a passage. It’s usually rendered “SO THAT”, or “TO”. In other words, it helps us understand the author’s conclusion.
How does that work in regard to suffering?
Like this: Christians have a “treasure” within us. Vs. 6 says this treasure is “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
God has so designed the Believer and life, that in order for that glory to be made known to the World through us - He has made us very brittle creatures. SO THAT - “the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” Power for what? To live in joy and peace, even in the midst of unexplained and continued suffering. So that His supernatural sustaining power might be demonstrated through us - IN us.
While we live in these bodies, we are always being given over to circumstances which would seem to destroy us - and by means of it - He brings others to life. It is beyond our comprehension. But Dear Saint, you who have been tested and tried and who have thought that it must mean God has abandoned you or is hanging you out to dry for some unknown reason - listen to this passage. Ease, success, plenty and no adversity are not the presupposed norms of the Christian life. It’s just the opposite. And those who would tell you different, are not reliable. They don’t get it.
You in Christ who are standing today in the midst of severe trial, and know full well that you are not doing it by means of even the smallest ability of your own - He is manifesting Himself to the rest of us - in your mortal flesh.
And we experience these things not only in terms of deliberate persecution, but also in the simple trials of life: The breakdown of our bodies; sinful and hurtful human interaction; our battles with indwelling sin; natural disasters - like Covid-19, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods and the like.
Each of these individually and collectively trouble us but do not utterly destroy us. Because it is our great God’s intent to make Himself known through the impossible way we endure - trusting and rejoicing in Him.
Yes, we are afflicted in “every way” the text says, but not crushed. Yes, it is confusing and we are often perplexed, but NOT driven to despair. We may be persecuted, but He never forsakes us. We might even be smashed to the ground by circumstances - but we cannot be destroyed - because the very life of Christ remains in us. We are outwardly given over to death every day. But it is that the miracle of our survival will make Christ known.
Let that soak into your soul today suffering saint.
God bless, and God willing, we’ll be back tomorrow.