Is there a hidden part of your life that no one — not even your best friend or trusted family member — knows about?
Maybe you’re suffering with depression. You’re tired of where you’re headed (or not headed). Your efforts to find love, happiness, meaning and purpose have amounted to little and you’re wondering what’s the point.
Maybe you’re suffering with anxiety. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, you feel like a train wreck. You cannot stop feeling anxious about every little thing. You feel like there’s constant pressure on your shoulders and it’s weighing you down.
Maybe you’re suffering with addiction. Whether it’s drugs, alcohol or pornography, you have a special place in your heart for a destructive and sinful infatuation. Your addiction is ruining your relationships, and it’s drawing you further away from Christ. You want to stop but you don’t know how.
If any of these describe you, I’ve got good news: You’re not alone. Even better, Christ knows how you’re feeling because He’s been there himself.
I’m fine, thank you.
I was reading 1 Peter 5 today, and there was a sentence of that chapter that leaped off the page:
Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. (v. 9, NLT)
Peter used the word “remember.” Don’t forget. Think about it and think about it often. Memorize it. Keep it in front of you and use it as a lens to see the world around you. That’s what God’s Word tells us to do.
Then there’s the opposite: Forget. Don’t remember. Don’t think about it and it’ll go away. Perish the thought. That’s what Satan wants us to do.
When you’re suffering, do you suffer alone or do you remember that your family of believers all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are? Do you open up to other believers and share how you’re feeling and ask them to pray for you? Or are you suffering alone and trying to make it through on your own?
Every day, people at church, work and home ask me how I’m doing. Without even thinking about it, my default answer is “Fine” or “I’m doing well. How about you?” I might be depressed, worn out and exhausted, anxious about work and life, struggling to overcome an addictive sin, neglecting time in God’s Word and prayer. But all in all, I’m fine. Really, I am. Aren’t I?
Maybe I’m not fine, but we’re all going through different struggles. Why should I talk about my suffering like it’s something special? Isn’t that what Job did? Every Christian is suffering. I should just suck it up, look on the bright side of things, rest in faith and know everything will work out for good.
That’s how we think as believers, but is that how God wants us to respond to our suffering and struggles in life?
We’re united in suffering.
There’s a universal language every human shares around the world. I wish I could be optimistic and say it’s laughter and love, but it’s not. It’s pain and suffering.
No one has ever gone through life without some pain and suffering. Sadly, the same cannot be said for laughter and love.
Let’s be honest. No one wants to talk about pain and suffering. If you’ve read this much, I’m impressed. Talking about suffering and watching someone struggle with pain is hard work. It makes us sad. It’s a sad reminder of the world we live in.
We’d rather be happy and hear about joy. Many of us will go to great lengths to avoid feeling sad. We self-medicate on anything and everything (e.g. caffeine, sugar, comfort food, adrenaline, entertainment, drugs, etc.) to avoid feeling the pain and suffering around us.
However, pain and suffering is a necessary part of the fallen world we live in. In 1 Peter 5, Peter’s words warn us we should never forget that every believer all over the world is suffering or else we’re giving Satan an opportunity to devour and destroy us. As soon as we put rose-colored glasses on and think we’re “fine” or that the world around us isn’t bad, that’s when things get ugly.
We hate pain. We hate feeling it. It hurts. Without pain, though, we wouldn’t know something is wrong. When you feel pain in your body, you go see a doctor and get things checked out. Ignoring the pain you’re experiencing often makes things worse. If you wait to see a doctor till the pain is absolutely intolerable, that’s often when things are beyond repair.
The same goes for suffering as a Christian. Don’t ignore your pain. Pray about it often and turn to Christ for healing. No matter what you’re struggling with, He knows your pain. He’s a great physician and knows what medicine you need.
Hebrews 2:18 is one of many verses that reminds us that Christ suffered so He could relate to us and help us in our suffering:
Because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Don’t be afraid to talk about it with other believers, either. Share what you’re experiencing and feeling. In 1 Peter 5, Peter guaranteed they can relate to your suffering. And Galatians 6:2 encourages us to carry each other’s burdens.
Pain and suffering reminds us that something is wrong. There’s something wrong with the world. We shouldn’t feel comfortable here because we’re not home. We need healing. The world around us needs healing.
You don’t have to suffer alone.
My week is off to a rough start. I checked Facebook before writing this today and discovered that one of my best friends in college lost her life to addiction. I’m hurting and I wasn’t prepared to feel this much pain this week. It’s an ugly reminder of the fallen world we live in.
But thankfully that 1 Peter 5 passage about suffering is book-ended by the amazing hope we have as Christians:
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (vv. 6-7, NLT)
In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. (v. 10, NLT)
Suffer a little while. Don’t be ashamed of it. Don’t worry about it. And don’t be afraid of it.
As Peter instructed, “Give all your worries and cares to God.” He cares about you. His Son cares about you. His adopted children —your family of believers — care about you. Remember you’re not alone in your suffering. So depend on the support, strength and restoration God provides through His Son and His Church for healing. Humble yourself and rely upon the mighty power of God to get through this. At the perfect time, God will lift you up in honor. I can attest to this and so can countless other Christians who have gone through much worse sufferings than most of us can imagine.
Copyright 2018 Matt Stickel. All rights reserved.