Randy Alcorn's book The Goodness of God, has some interesting perspectives on the subject of the age-old questions of Christian suffering. But Jesus himself gave us warnings about our being persecuted and enduring trials and experiencing suffering as the children of God.
I really appreciate the way Randy's book is laced with illustrative word pictures of actual people in real circumstances and the things they suffered. It's good reading during the times of turmoil in our world, when we are suffering from life's hurts and disappointments.
Near the end of the book, Randy gives us 4 ways we can trust God for deliverance from our suffering.
1. Look to God's promises for comfort. How often have I encouraged my readers to "stay close to the Word of God?" By now we should find ourselves reaching for our Bibles automatically when there is the first sign we could be facing struggles and suffering. This point in the book also directs us to the words of David in Psalm 27. This weekend, find a few minutes with your Bible and make a list of God's promises which are detailed in Psalm 27.
2. Anticipate God's rewards. Quoting from the book, "Evil and suffering are temporary, but God's goodness and our joy will be eternal." Another Bible chapter for your study and consideration this weekend is Hebrews 11, also known as the "Faith Chapter" in the Bible. In that chapter you will find numerous people of God who suffered in various negative ways, finding positive solutions to their adversities because of their faith in God. Actually, the child of the Heavenly Father had his hand in the lives of each of these people.....and in yours. Anticipate his rewards, even in the midst of suffering.
3. Lighten the load through prayer. You have heard this one, too. Just about every encouragement in these pages to stay close to the Word of God, have also been followed by steering you in the direction of a strong prayer life. Today when you pray, read aloud Philippians 4:6-7. Suffering may make us feel weak or act as if we have nothing powerful to lean on, but when we present our requests to God in prayer, we are tapping into the greatest and most powerful source that exists.
4. Share your life with others who suffer. This is not to be a pre-arranged pity party where we try to outdo each other in describing our sufferings. It's not intended to be a time when we compare scars. Rather it is a time when we can draw energy from realizing we are not in this alone. Life can deal us some low blows and we hurt. While we are in the middle of our suffering, part of our maturity comes when we begin to share our story with others who are suffering, too. And, it's also a good time to turn to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, learning that we are children of the One who is called "the God of all comfort." And Paul says that God not only comforts us in our troubles, but makes us an instrument of comfort to others who are suffering.
"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." 1 Peter 4:12-13