3 Perspectives to Remember While Suffering
Have you ever had your day interrupted before? You have a routine that you are following and then the phone rings or someone comes over for a visit or some other unforeseen event happens. Most of the time those interruptions are welcomed with open arms. But what about when your carefully planned out day is interrupted by less than exciting circumstances? Like sin? This can be frustrating at best.
Nothing is more tragic and sad than when sin taints our lives. Whether it is ours or someone else’s, sin can and will ruin your day and possibly your life if left unrepentant. But even more maddening and confusing is when you see sin that goes unchecked, unchallenged, and even seems to produce prosperity.
Practically speaking, I have seen this happen in many different ways. A person who has been diligently working for a promotion is replaced by another who has lied and manipulated their way up the ladder of success. An athlete uses performance enhancing drugs to get ahead of their competition by which they become rich and famous. A government awards honor and benefits to those practicing sexually sinful behavior. A government profits from taxing those who sell mind altering drugs in their misplaced business. Members of a false religion are glorified as heroes in their country and among their brethren for brutally murdering innocent Christians. On and on it goes. It seems as though doing the wrong thing in our society brings celebration, reward, and prosperity. Where we would expect correction and justice, instead we find accolades and reward. This can be confusing.
This is not a new concept in this world we live in. David noticed it and said this:
“3 For I was envious of the arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no pains in their death, And their body is fat. 5 They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like mankind. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; The garment of violence covers them. 7 Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of their heart run riot. 8 They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high. 9 They have set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue parades through the earth.” Psalm 73:3–9 (NASB95)
David points out the actions of the wicked, how they prosper, escape trouble, and even become fat (a sign of blessing in the Old Testament) resulting in great pride while setting their mouths against the heavens and parading it through the earth. David confesses that he was envious of these arrogant, wicked, prosperous people who gave themselves all of the credit for their success.
Job, also frustrated by this, asked the question:
“7 “Why do the wicked still live, Continue on, also become very powerful? 8 “Their descendants are established with them in their sight, And their offspring before their eyes, 9 Their houses are safe from fear, And the rod of God is not on them. 10 “His ox mates without fail; His cow calves and does not abort. 11 “They send forth their little ones like the flock, And their children skip about. 12 “They sing to the timbrel and harp And rejoice at the sound of the flute. 13 “They spend their days in prosperity, And suddenly they go down to Sheol. 14 “They say to God, ‘Depart from us! We do not even desire the knowledge of Your ways. 15 ‘Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him, And what would we gain if we entreat Him?’” Job 21:7–15 (NASB95)
Job similarly points out the prosperity of those who are not only wicked and powerful but who willingly reject God. Their descendants are established, their houses are safe, even their oxen mate successfully never failing to produce calves. As if that wasn’t enough, they spend their lives in carefree enjoyment, singing and rejoicing in song until their last day before they depart for the grave, never once giving God any thought except to say, “Depart from us!” Both of these wise men of God noticed a problem and a seeming injustice and inconsistency. And maybe you have noticed it too.
A whole lot can be said and has been said about this by much smarter people than myself, but let me share a few ideas from the scriptures as well as my own experiences with this topic.
Consideration #1 – Remember, Our Perception is Skewed
A well respected pastor said once, “There are at least three different points of view in any situation – ours, the other person’s, and God’s.” Unfortunately, in our pride we are often quick to accept our point of view as being the most accurate one. This is why it is helpful to have wise loving voices in our lives to help keep us grounded during times of injustice.
Another consideration is that when we demand our rights in these situations, we need to make sure that we are keeping the proper perspective concerning the Father’s plan. Even when we have experienced an injustice and are truly not at fault and immediate compensation seems to be due to us, we need to keep in mind that maybe God has a bigger and better plan. This is what we find in the ministry of Jesus who endured terrible injustice but never demanded His rights. One of my favorite verses that has spoken to me powerfully over the years, especially as a minister, is in 1 Peter.
“21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;” 1 Peter 2:21–23 (NASB95)
These verses remind me of the example that Christ has set for me to follow during times of injustice and hardship at the hands of others. Christ was without sin (of which I am not) and without deception in His mouth (again, a claim I cannot make) but still endured reviling and suffering at the hands of sinners. If there was ever one person who lived on this planet that didn’t deserve to experience injustice, it would have been Jesus. But that was not the Father’s plan. While in torment on the cross He could have called down legions of angels to deliver Himself. He could have called up a storm to wipe out the inhabitants of Jerusalem. He could have called down fire and brimstone to annihilate the Romans and the Jews. Shoot, He could have translated Himself to some nice little villa on the Mediterranean Sea if He wanted to! Not only did He have the power and authority to do those things, but He would have had every right to. He was innocent! Wrongly accused and falsely charged. Instead, He chose to be silent before His accusers and entrust Himself completely to God, who judges righteously. You see, there were some in attendance there that day that one day soon would choose to bow their hearts to God and confess that Jesus is Lord. This would happen through the submissive, sacrificial death of the Son and His planned resurrection. If judgment needed to be delivered, Jesus entrusted that responsibility to the One who will judge righteously. His focus that day was to complete the plan of redemption He had set out to do.
So I am reminded at times, that maybe God has a bigger plan than seeing that my immediate vindication be served. In fact, I am quite encouraged to think that through my situation of injustice, God may just use that for His glory and the spread of the gospel!
Consideration #2 – Rejoice, Our Discomfort is Temporary
To be sure, this life is a vapor. James reminds us that:
“14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” James 4:14 (NASB95)
Therefore, scripture reminds us in Psalms to pray like this:
“12 So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 (NASB95)
One thing that I have learned in my 41 years of existence, is that everything changes sooner or later. Mountain top experiences eventually give way to the valleys. Valley wanderings eventually lead us back on top of the mountain again. In the same way, injustice and wickedness will some day give way to fairness and righteousness. While in the last point, we discussed the importance of trusting in the Lord and not leaning on our own understanding, we also need to remember that a day of justice is coming for the righteous. In fact, it was said of Jesus that:
“20 “A battered reed He will not break off, And a smoldering wick He will not put out, Until He leads justice to victory.” Matthew 12:20 (NASB95)
This is great news for those who are battered, bruised, smoldering, and just barely hanging on. Sometimes when I consider all of the tragedy, injustice, tyranny, inequity, exploitation, and just plain old unfair circumstances, it is no doubt that people get tired and give up. But in Christ, we have hope because there is coming a day when our Lord and Savior is going to return to establish justice and peace in a new heaven and a new earth. Those who have trusted in Him will be finally led to victory for all eternity. While we experience the position of this truth now as a child of God, one day soon we will live it out completely in all of its fullness. What a great day that will be. Until then, hold on, our victory is coming!
Consideration #3 – Revision, God’s Provision is Perfect
Fact: Anything that I can do, God can do better. That includes taking care of my needs. From time to time I need to revise my thinking concerning this. Of course, the Lord is a big help in teaching me and reteaching me this principle.
Recently, I was teaching a class on Revelation. As we came to the sixth chapter that deals with the seven seals, the fifth seal is concerned with martyrs. We find their souls under the altar of heaven having lost their physical bodies temporarily because of the word of God and their testimony. These souls of the saints are crying out with a loud voice, asking, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will you refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” They have faithfully shared the most important message of peace, love, reconciliation, and truth that the world can hear, and they were rewarded by having to pay the ultimate sacrifice of their lives for it. Talk about unfair! Gospel messengers should be decorated with the highest honor available but instead are often met with opposition and violence.
The amazing thing about this scene in Revelation is how the Lord responds to their cry.
“11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.” Revelation 6:11 (NASB95)
They are clothed with righteousness, told to be patient, and informed that there is even more injustice to come for their brothers and sisters. God provides for them white robes, rest, and protection all the while reminding them of further atrocities to unjustly visit the children of God. I believe this is a sober reminder for us that this is just how things are going to be until Jesus returns in a violent storm of judgment against a wicked world. But for the righteous, He sustains them until the end.
Suffer for Righteousness Sake
In conclusion, we are called to avoid sin at all cost. Unfortunately, if we were honest with ourselves, we would have to confess that more times than not, our own sin is the source of our suffering. Peter pleads with us about this.
“15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” 1 Peter 4:15–16 (NASB95)
If you have to suffer, and I believe that suffering is inevitable in this life, make sure you are suffering for righteousness sake not because of your sin.
Thanks for these important points for all of us to think over at all times, but especially in times of our own Earthly suffering. I have told many caring friends and loved ones of the JOY only God could ever have managed to give/share to myself and family and friends in the midst of what I call our worst ICK which is, by no means, the worst ICK on Earth. It can become overwhelming, but I’ve noticed that right about the time that it almost wins out, God blesses me with a piece of JOY only He could provide to get us through. Without these Earthly sufferings, ICKS, I wonder if we could fully appreciate the bits of true JOY we are blessed with to keep us strong. Recently, the JOYS I have been blessed with (smack dab in the midst of the deep ICK) are far more overwhelming me in awe than any ICK has ever been able to accomplish – ever! I feel blessed that by knowing, believing in and giving myself up completely to Him with all of my FAITH I have been able to see these gifts of JOY that keep me strong enough that others, that I pray and share my JOY with can’t yet see, but will someday soon. Thanks for sharing.