STORY: Another Suffering Gig
Do you ever feel like you got in the wrong line? You went to sign up for some happiness and you received suffering instead. I can certainly relate. I’ve had 20 surgeries and deal with daily symptoms. Just as severe are the personal jabs I took during my 30 years as a pastor’s wife.
Sometimes when you’re having an attack of pitifulness, you might take one of those online quizzes that confirms you’re having a bad day. It asks you these questions:
- Does it seem like the whole world is against you?
- Does it feel like nothing is going right?
- Do you see others getting ahead in life and you keep dealing with setbacks?
- Do you feel like you have a target on your back?
- Do you feel like the bad stuff in life is on repeat?
- Does it seem like your trials don’t have expiration dates?
If you answered 4 out of the 6 “yes,” then it’s official. You’re having a bad day. And what are you supposed to do when nothing is going right? Well, according to the children’s song, you might as well go outside and eat worms!
The fun of the song is that by the time you sing all the lyrics, describing all nature of the worm kingdom, the pity party is replaced with silliness.
One of Satan’s tools when we’re suffering is to cause us to exaggerate our sense of catastrophe. Catastrophizing. One of my friends used to try to minimize it when she called for help by saying, “I’m having a bad five minutes.” Satan wants us to feel like we’re having a bad life—with circumstances worse than what anyone else is experiencing.
It’s human nature to become irrational as we list our woes. We are tempted to feel defeated and discouraged. Satan wants us to quit trying and give up.
When we don’t get what we want—when others don’t treat us like we think they should—it doesn’t mean we are failures, it means it’s not God’s timing. He has something else that’s more important for us to learn, and we’ll miss it if we spend too much time in the garden eating worms!
STUDY: What’s So Happy about Suffering?
God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. (Matthew 5:11-12 NLT)
- Name the four ways others mistreat you that are mentioned in this verse.
- What does Matthew say God will do when you are mistreated because of being God’s followers?
- It seems counterintuitive to think any human being could be happy when others treat them poorly. How is it we can be glad when this happens?
- What other reminder does Matthew give us, to help us keep the suffering life in perspective?
I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. (Colossians 1:24 NLT)
- What suffering did Paul endure for the sake of Christ? (See 2 Corinthians 11:24-27)
- Why does Paul say he is glad when he suffers for Christ?
- How do you think our suffering can qualify us to be a participant in the sufferings of Christ?
- How does suffering benefit the church?
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. (1 Peter 1:6 NLT)
- What’s the difference between being truly glad and merely being glad? Why do you think Peter emphasized being authentic with our gladness?
- How long does Peter say we must endure many trials?
- Does it help to know the suffering is temporary compared to the wonderful joy that is yet to come?
Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. (1 Peter 4:13 NLT)
- In the same letter, later on, Peter again brings up being glad in trials. This time what does he say trials do?
- Why is it a good thing to be a partner with Christ and His suffering?
- What is the ultimate outcome of this partnership of suffering?
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT)
- Paul prayed three times that God would remove his suffering (he called it his thorn in the flesh). How did God reply to that prayer?
- How can grace be enough for all Paul’s needs?
- What happens when we are weak?
- When Paul realized the strength of suffering reveals God’s grace, he was glad to boast in the weakness—why?
STEPS: Be Glad Regardless!
- Swap prayers. When you’re going through a difficult time and need prayer, find others also suffering and offer to swap prayers for them. Use your time of suffering to lift up the other person to the Father rather than rehearsing your woes.
- Write gratitude lists. Think on the good things rather than stink on the bad.
- Seek God’s purpose in pain. It’s easier to accept suffering when the ultimate outcome can glorify God and grow His Kingdom.
Copyright © 2017 Kathy Carlton Willis. Used by permission.