Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses: ‘Why is this bush not burned up?’ The strength and stability of these believers can be explained only by the miracle of God’s sustaining grace. The God who sustains Christians in unceasing pain is the same God — with the same grace — who sustains me in my smaller sufferings. We marvel at God’s persevering grace and grow in our confidence in Him as He governs our lives.”
— John Newton
All of us know a brother or sister who seems to be a target of an inordinate amount of suffering. It seems like they’re always in the furnace. All we can do is shake our heads and admire their faith in God’s grace.
Ministering to these sufferers can be a challenge. What can we say to these who seem to be on “God’s anvil?” How can we bless those who are in pain?
Perhaps a simple word of encouragement is the most effective. In the midst of my difficulties I had a dear brother who faithfully quoted Philippians 1:6 to me:
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
It was a welcome thing he did. I didn’t mind it all, as a matter of fact I grew to like it. My faith began to mix with the Word and I began to believe it. It’s now my favorite verse in the Bible.
He refused to preach (or counsel) at me. He had the maturity to see what God was doing and to make himself available to God on my behalf. Perhaps that patience he showed should be the method of choice?
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.”
A key word in this verse is “rejoice.” It is a good reminder that the pain we feel is not the end. These trials have a limited duration (although it seems far away). There is coming a day when we navigate through these issues and come out on the other side.
Much wisdom is needed in our ministry to disproportionate sufferers. We should have a fear of intruding on the work the Lord is doing. We must be patient and humble in this matter.
A “word” spoken out-of-place can cause more conflict for the sufferer. Let us be careful. At times it’s better not to say anything and that’s alright. Job’s friends were best sitting in the ash heap saying not a word.