SUFFERING WITH HOPE
BY EUGENE WILSON
WE TEND TO GET caught up in the immediate, the here and now, and do so especially in the midst of suffering. At such times, many lose hope. Thus, we would do well to consider the value of suffering. By understanding its value we can grasp hold of hope, even though our suffering may last a lifetime.
MANY ARE SUFFERING
Unfortunately, many are suffering. According to statistics, nearly one-in-five people in the United States of America live with some type of physical disability. Likewise, nearly one-in-five people in the United States suffer from some type of mental illness. There is also a growing crisis of chronic disease in the United States. Nearly half of the population has at least one chronic disease or more.
Furthermore, while the majority of people with a disability are between the ages of eighteen and sixty four, the older a person becomes the more likely they are to become disabled. Unfortunately, most disabled people experience a decrease in earnings. According to statistics, disabled people earn about one-third less than those who are not disabled, and nearly 30 percent of disabled people live in poverty.
loni Eareckson Tada, a singer, artist, radio host, and bestselling author, was recently interviewed in a Facebook Live Event called “Finding Hope in Suffering.” The purpose of the event was to promote Joni’s latest book, a study Bible called “Beyond Suffering Bible.”
Suffering causes many questions to arise. Joni, who became a paraplegic in 1967 as the result of a diving accident, states, “Suffering always prompts heartwrenching questions: If God is good, why would He allow this pain in my life? Is God truly sovereign over accidents and birth anomalies, or does the devil set the world’s agenda? How do I counsel people who are despairing of their condition? What are the right choices when it comes to assisted-suicide and other tough ethical issues? For that matter, where does a person struggling with a life-altering accident or illness find peace of mind and a purpose for living?” In other words, “What is the value of suffering?”
THE VALUE OF SUFFERING
Those who struggle in finding the value of suffering teeter between disappointment and despair, between feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Many see no way out of their day-to-day disability; they feel stuck and powerless to do anything about it. Unfortunately, most people are not poised with the patience needed to endure suffering. loni states, “Most people want to drug it, escape it, divorce it; do anything but live with it.”
And yet there is a value found in suffering. Paul wrote in Romans 5:3-4, “We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.”
In describing the value of suffering, loni says, “Suffering is arguably God’s choicest tool in shaping the character of Christ in us.” She states, “God permits what he hates, to accomplish what he loves.” The value of suffering is found in what it brings to our lives-patience, experience, and hope.
This hope, however, is not to experience the comforts and joys of this world. We have hope of a better world. Paul said, in I Corinthians IS: I 9, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” Our hope transcends this world. God does not care about our comfort as much as He cares about our growth in Him. loni states, “We’ve got to remember that the core of Christ’s plan is to rescue us from sin. Our pain, poverty, and broken hearts are not his ultimate focus.”
FUTURE AND A HOPE
However, it is wrong to think God does not care about what we are going through. The Scriptures are clear; He cares. Thus, we can trust Him. We can trust Him even when walking in darkness. (See Isaiah 50: 10-11.)
“Most people want to drug it, escape it, divorce it; do anything but live with it.” -Joni Eareckson Tada
God gives us hope. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, NKlV). Although the text is about the future of the children of Israel, who would soon enter into seventy years of bondage, the message is applicable today. In spite of our troubles, in spite of our suffering, we can rest assured that God has given us a future and a hope.
Yes, there is hope. There is hope for the downcast. Hope for the downtrodden. Hope for those who are discouraged. Suffering tries to steal our hope. It tries to destroy our hope. But with God there is always hope.