This post is sponsored by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Are you suffering right now? Are you close to someone facing hardship?
The Bible says that suffering should not catch us off guard. Peter warned us, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
Most Christians who read their Bible and sit under good preaching recognize that suffering is a guaranteed life experience. However, I’ve found that many believers don’t comprehend this: when suffering enters our door, we don’t just suffer the thing we’re suffering; we suffer how we’re suffering it.
That sounds like a confusing statement, so let me unpack it.
We never just suffer from something – an illness, an accident, a disability, the loss of a loved one, or whatever it may be. It’s always deeper than that, because human beings don’t live life based just on the mere facts of their experience. Rather, we live life based on our interpretation of those facts. That means we bring an interpretive grid to our suffering that will shape the way we interact with and respond to suffering.
Every Christian, somehow and in some way, will interpret their suffering. What you believe in those moments of interpretation is critical to not only your faith, but also the faith of those whom you are suffering with.
The Traps of Suffering
I have pastored and counseled suffering people for more than four decades. I have also experienced significant levels of physical pain in the past two years of my own life. Through these experiences and through his Word, God has revealed to me three very natural but very significant traps to avoid when we suffer.
1. The Trap of Doubt
When we suffer, it’s tempting to allow ourselves to doubt the goodness of God. We interpret our suffering as an evidence that God is less than who he has depicted himself to be in Scripture. If he was loving, this wouldn’t happen. If he was generous, he wouldn’t take this away. If he was a protector, this wouldn’t enter my door.
What about you? Are you tempted to bring God into the court of your judgment during suffering?
2. The Trap of Worry
The way many of us work through our suffering is by generating all the possible “what if I had” or “if only I did” scenarios. We wish we could rewind the clock and rearrange our lives. We keep ourselves awake with questions we don’t have answers to, wishing for control that isn’t ours to possess.
What about you? How have you struggled with regret and worry during suffering?
3. The Trap of Envy
When we shoulder the burden of suffering, we’re tempted to believe that God somehow managed to send suffering to the wrong address. Surely this hardship wasn’t intended for me, we say. We allow envy to creep in, we start yearning for the life of somebody else, and we resent those who seem to have it easy.
What about you? Whom have you been envious of during suffering?
A Resource for Suffering
If you were to honestly examine your life, I think you would find it to be true: you never just suffer the thing that you’re suffering. You also suffer from your interpretive grid that adds layers of pain to the pain you’re already enduring.
If you’re questioning God’s goodness, paralyzed by regret, and brimming with envy, you won’t be able to find the solace you desperately need. If, however, you bring a robust biblical interpretation to your suffering experience, it will aid you as you struggle, mourn, heal, and mature. It will also direct your words and actions as you comfort those who also are suffering.
This is why I am so enthusiastic about The Beyond Suffering Bible, a first-of-its kind resource made specifically for those who suffer and the people who love them. From bestselling author Joni Eareckson Tada and the experts at Joni and Friends Christian Institute on Disability, the Beyond Suffering Bible is filled with thousands of notes and features that invite readers into a conversation about suffering and its place in each person’s life.
Each feature has been carefully created to provide readers with valuable information, meaningful encouragement, and challenging applications as they encounter God’s Word. At the end of this post, you can flip through a preview of the book of Job. It’s overflowing with resources.
Having been through a prolonged season of physical suffering myself over the past two years, reading through The Beyond Suffering Bible was a tremendous blessing to me. But something else happened as I read through its pages: I began to get excited about the generations of people who will find new understanding, comfort, and hope because fellow sufferers at Joni and Friends committed themselves to produce such an insightful, loving, and practical tool.
My prayer is that because of The Beyond Suffering Bible, the vision of 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 will be experienced by countless sufferers:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”
There is hardly a person who doesn’t know someone dealing with a disability, disease, chronic illness, or other form of personal suffering. The church needs this resource.
Pick up a copy of The Beyond Suffering Bible. Like me, you’ll be glad you did.
Preview The Beyond Suffering Bible
Preview the book of Job from The Beyond Suffering Bible.