Sherrie Lambert, firstname.lastname@example.org
I had come to fellowship with my nephew, Wade, as he prepared to face yet another of many surgeries since his swimming accident three years prior that left him a quadriplegic. As I stared deeply into his steel blue eyes, tears streamed down my face, while tears filled his. My heart wrenched with compassion as I held his crippled hand tightly in mine massaging his motionless fingers as we shared our mutual love for God and trust in His faithfulness.
As we spoke I felt overwhelmed with a sense of inadequacy in my efforts to minister comfort to the young man who lay in the bed before me, his body twisted, mangled and completely paralyzed from his neck down. We spoke at great lengths about life and death, and at some point in our conversation I offered what I hoped would be of encouragement to him from the Word, ( 2 Corinthians 5:8) “to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord” I assured him. He smiled that million dollar smile of his and with clearness of mind and conviction of heart he responded, “and I will be standing before Him.”
To say this young man has known suffering would be an understatement. And although during the course of our visit I never uttered the words aloud, my mind screamed without ceasing ... why God why? Why the hurting? Why the pain? Why the suffering? Is there a purpose to human misery, or is it simply a heartbreaking fact of life? And if there is a purpose what could that purpose possibly be?
‘Why God why ‘ has to be the most asked question in the world, and the one question for which there is no singular answer. This one thing is certain, whatever the reason, cause or end result no one escapes suffering. Saint Augustine is quoted as saying “God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.” Everyone has known or will know suffering.
Great minds, theologians, humanitarians, and powerful figures throughout history have pondered this question, and for as many who have asked we are left with as many answers. The people quoted below were no strangers to suffering, theirs as well as that of others. So why suffering?
Confucius the Chinese philosopher tells us, “ The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.” So the answer is suffering teaches us?
Helen Keller shared her thoughts on suffering with these words, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” So the answer is suffering builds character?
Winston Churchill explained the suffering of wartime to a hurting nation like this, “We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.” So the answer is suffering inspires us?
Nelson Mandela, “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” So the answer is suffering unites us?
The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 5:3-4 “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope.” Whatever the reason for the suffering, I’ve witnessed that the suffering experience itself, coupled with faith in God, has the potential to awake within us strengths beyond our initial concept of our own abilities, and power to ignite in mankind the courage to endure.
When faced with suffering Hebrews 13:3 instructs Believers to, “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
Why suffering? I don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t know that anyone but God could know. I do however know that when those who have suffered reach out in the name of Jesus and with the love of God, to those who are suffering, a fellowship will emerge that will produce hope eternal and peace for the afflicted in the midst of that suffering.
Psalm 119:50, “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” Now and for eternity ... Amen.