When you said, “I believe,” what did you expect would happen next? Did you expect that by faith in Christ you would live a life free from pain and suffering? Did you think Jesus saved you so that you could be happy, healthy, and wealthy? If you did, you heard it from someone who was not teaching the whole counsel of God. To be sure, once we have been saved, we are happy (happiness is a by-product of our freedom), healthy (we have been raised from death to life), and wealthy (we are now is possession of the riches of Christ). But along with this “good news” comes some pretty bad news too!
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:18-23)
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake . . . (Philippians 1:29)
Clearly, if you were expecting a life without pain and suffering you had the wrong expectation! And wrong expectations can lead to a life of frustration and fear, guilt and grief, disappointment and disillusionment, anxiety and anger. That is why the Bible tells us that only the truth will set us free; and the truth is that we are broken and messed up people living in a broken and messed up world. Sure, Jesus came to set the captives free, and when He returns He will make all that is crooked straight. But our freedom is not fully realized; the crooked is not yet straight; and these things won’t occur until we get beyond the grave or until He returns. On this side of heaven, Jesus made it clear that “You will have tribulation,” no matter how hard we try to avoid it.
Because of this truth, it is best for us approach pain and suffering like the apostle Paul, who considered the sufferings he was going through in this world not worth comparing with the glory that would be revealed to him in the next. When we ignore the reality of pain and suffering in this life we ignore it to our own peril.
What is remarkable in reading the writings of Paul is that he considered suffering for Christ as much a grace and gift from God as it was to serve Christ. Paul even boasted in his suffering because it more closely identified him with the One who had called to Him on the road to Damascus and saved him.
Those who tell us to expect a crown of glory when our Lord received a crown of thorns are not telling us the whole truth. Now, I am not minimizing pain and suffering, but I want to make it clear that trials in this life are an incontrovertible and unpleasant reality—one that is better to receive than from which to try and escape.
So . . . what did you expect? God promises in His Word that He will always give us the grace to handle anything that comes our way, telling us that His grace is sufficient to meet our every need (2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:13). Remember, nothing—nothing—happens to you that doesn’t first pass through His nailed-scarred hands. Your Savior is with you in your storm. Your Prince is with you in your pain. What more could you ask or hope for during the little time you have in this life compared to the glory you will experience forever in the next?
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!