Locations & Times

Can We Trust Christ When We Suffer?

by Leigh Ann Dilley on March 05, 2024


It can be many things, and none of us get through life without it. Suffering is defined as a state of pain, distress, loss, or hardship. Suffering can be physical, emotional, mental, financial, or all the above. Suffice it to say, suffering happens whenever life circumstances do not go in the direction we planned. 

No one likes to suffer or wants to suffer, but Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). In contrast, Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” On one hand, we are told to expect trouble; yet at the same time, we are promised God will work all things for good. The reference to “good” here is “qualified to be according to His purpose.” Herein lies the journey of suffering, but what happens in the middle of this journey? How do we honor God and bring Him glory in this continuum? 

Scripture is always the best place to look when dealing with something complex. Scripture says Christ suffered. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked God to take away the suffering He was born to endure. Jesus, suffering this night, began with prayer. He sought His Father. In the end, Jesus prayed for God’s will to be done, not his own. After his prayer, angels came and strengthened Jesus. God had a bigger plan for Jesus that could only be fulfilled through his suffering. 

God has a bigger plan for us, too. Many meet a stumbling block with their faith when presented with circumstances that are overwhelming. We want the part of Jesus that promises to make everything good, not the part that promises trouble. But let’s face it, life is not fair! What happened to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross was anything but fair! 

Paul gave powerful witness to the guards and wrote many of his letters while in prison. Where would we be without those? Joseph, the one with the colorful coat, also found favor with the Lord and the prison guards during his imprisonment. He rose to great esteem and eventually was second in command of Egypt. Even Mary suffered when she was judged and shamed by her people and — temporarily and in secret — by her future husband when Jesus was conceived, not to mention the unimaginable agony of watching her son go to the cross. I’m sure Paul and Joseph never would have chosen to go to prison, and Mary could not have foreseen all she would suffer. The similar thread in all these examples is that God had a bigger plan, and so He allowed suffering. 

When the weight of suffering presses in and the heaviness is real, can we trust God? Where do we find comfort? How do we overcome and find peace in all circumstances? 

There are degrees of suffering. The ending of a relationship or loss of a job are a lot different than tragic events that violate a person, cause horrific harm, unexpected death, or long-lasting illnesses or consequences from circumstances out of our control. When suffering is extreme, it takes more than human understanding to explain it. Only God can provide what is needed during extreme suffering.  Pastoral care or counseling may be necessary to move forward. The following suggestions may feel painfully inadequate, but we hope they are helpful. 

Fight Suffering with Prayer

Surviving a season of suffering comes down to spiritual warfare and should be treated as such. It begins by fighting our enemy through prayer. When we pray, we are in the presence of God. Jesus sought His Father in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. By this example, we should run to the Father first instead of focusing on ourselves and our circumstances. Satan wants nothing more than to tempt us to fight suffering within our own resources and strength. He elevates our suffering by throwing confusion and doubt into our relationship with Jesus when our circumstances are not resolved quickly. 

Before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed for His disciples and future believers. Jesus prayed to His Holy Father for their protection from the power of evil in this world (John 17:11). But we need to understand it is our souls, not our bodies, that are protected from evil. Nowhere does Jesus promise our earthly bodies would be protected from decay, disease, or any other kind of harm. 

This may not be what we want to hear, but we can still have hope.

Paul tells us in Romans 5:1-5, paraphrased, that “just as we have peace because of our salvation, due to our faith in Christ Jesus, we can also have peace during times of suffering… rejoice when we have trouble, for trouble develops endurance. Endurance strengthens our character and that deepens our trust in God. Trust in God gives us a confident hope. Hope does not disappoint.”

Remember what God has done in the past.  

The Israelites aren’t the only stiff-necked people who consistently forget what God has done for them. We also forget. The best predictor of the future always comes from the past. Keep a journal or a book of personal prayers to easily recall what God has done.

The Bible is full of comforting words. 2 Corinthians 2b-4 says, “God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” Grief can be a big part of suffering. Jesus did not intend for us to manage suffering on our own; grief shared with others lessens the sting of it. You are not alone. In a season of suffering, it can feel like we have nothing left. At this time, God gave us a community of compassionate believers who will pray, minister, and provide strength to us in our weakness. 

Jer. 29:11-13: 

For I know the plans I have for you says the LORD, they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 

Through every suffering, the Lord’s plans are good. We suffer in a mere snapshot of time, but God continues to plan for a future of hope. Cling to this truth.

Powerful Worship

Jesus has done so much for us, what could we possibly give Him in return? Worship, in the form of giving Him our wounds, and broken hearts. Jesus is right beside you. In 1 Peter 5:7, Jesus asks us to give Him our cares and concerns. Obedience in a time of suffering is a form of worship; it proves we trust God.

When it has been a long, hard season of waiting, all our own resources are exhausted. All we have left is prayer, fasting, and surrender. These are powerful forms of worship. The most successful prayer we can ever pray is, “Thy will be done,” just like Jesus in Gethsemane.  At this point, it is important to stay focused on Christ and to live beyond the grave. Jesus sacrificed everything and suffered for us on the cross so we could be with Him in His Father’s House. Jesus trusted His Father through His own suffering, and we can trust Jesus through ours. We can trust God because His character does not fail. He guarantees He is with us, He cares for us, He sees us, He hears us, and through Romans 8:28, He promises to work out all things for good, according to His purposes. All things. Not some things, but all things.  

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