How Well Do We Suffer?

“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?'”

John Newton, Exodus 3:2

It seems that pain is the best teacher. I suppose as we navigate through life we find the ‘capacity’ of our hearts expanding. We learn the hard way to come under God’s direction, and we finally learn to love others. Maybe this is how God changes us? After all, isn’t the crushed grape that yields the wine?

C.S. Lewis once made the comment, (and it’s worth thinking about,) that “experience is the most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” We face many obstacles, run into quite a few dead ends, and along the way we learn that when we really hurt, we really start to learn some things.

I look over my life and it seems chock full of challenge. I’ve lost the use of my right arm, I have struggled with depression. I had a brain tumor removed, and must walk with a cane. I struggle with intense fatigue. (I no longer can pastor a church or teach in a Bible college.)

My wife and I have lost a child. I have prayed earnestly for a complete healing and had others pray for me. It’s funny, but all of this has happened after I became a Christian disciple! I often ask myself why?

What did I do to deserve all of this?

Paul and Barnabas came into an interesting place (we can read about it in Acts 14.)

“They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.” 

“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

Some of our Bible teachers we listen to minimize suffering, and we adopt a lot of our own theology to factor out pain and difficulty. But is this what the Bible teaches? If we read Hebrews 11, we find that life could be pretty grim for those with faith in God.

“Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.”

Why does it have to be so hard for believers in Jesus?

Common sense suggests that things should get easier for those who believe. We somehow think that God rewards faith with instant glory. I painfully discover that my discipleship, my faith, doesn’t mean some wonderful existence on this planet. It seems that pain becomes the way we grow up and mature in Him. I honestly believe, after over 40 years of following Jesus, that suffering is part of God’s plan for me.

It has never been easy. I wish it was.

No matter what you are going through, remember that God always loves you. He has chosen us to navigate us through much difficulty. We must however, convert these painful things by our faith in Him. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).

We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Author: Bryan Lowe

Not a 'bone of meanness' in him.

8 thoughts on “How Well Do We Suffer?”

  1. Hello!
    My name is Tina Morneau.
    There is some pain that I am going through and it is living STIGMA, concerning me , its my mental illness, even in the emergency ward!!
    I wrote about my story what I am going through but I made a mistake. I wrote not on this blog

    but the blog that talks about God that He keeps our tears in His bottle!
    It is easy to find!
    I did write long, sorry, but i wonder if anyone else living this and is there anyone that
    can help me out about what I am going through

    Thank you


  2. Sir, I am new to your site as a friend of Linda K. This is the first post I have read that you have written. (I read a post Linda wrote recently and sent to me.) Thank you for your words. Thank you for sharing the truth. God never promised an easy life, but a life of suffering. “But take courage,” he said, “I have overcome the world.”

    My life hasn’t been easy either. (Depression and a sense of feeling unloved as a teenager and young woman, death of a spouse at 48, raising a special needs child with mental health issues, being the third mom to three boys who didn’t ask for me to name a few items.) Certainly not the suffering you have mentioned here, but my life’s experiences when looked at through an earthly lens are sobering. However, when I look at my life through God’s lens, I find it humbling that God would grant me the ability to know him more through the suffering I’ve experienced,
    The verse, “I want to know him, the power of his resurrection, and at times the fellowship of his suffering…” has been my cry most of my life. But until just over a year ago I didn’t fully understand the beautiful depths of it. In 2019 I suffered a brain tumor that took me from healthy to extremely ill in almost every way within a few short months. However, as symptoms began, the Holy Spirit spoke to me, “Robin, you have been praying intently the last three years to know me more. Now is our time, and we will do this together. But to do so, you will need to get rid of two idols, ease and comfort.” I cringed, as yet I had no idea what was to come. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit intervened in my thoughts and reminded me that if God was going with me into whatever was to come, he would also grant me the ability to endure it. My heart cried, “Yes!” And the journey began.

    It was one of the most painful, frightening times of my life as my body deteriorated quickly, strangely, eventually leaving doctors thinking I was faking it. But in those months, I grew to know my Lord in ways I never could have otherwise. I experienced a “fellowship of suffering” with my Lord that bring tears to my eyes even as I write. And when the ordeal was finally over and most of my health returned, I worried I would lose what I had gained, and prayed I wouldn’t. I even stated, and still state, I’d do it again to see my Lord as I saw him then. I am so grateful I haven’t lost the lessons, and God is teaching me how to live out in a healthy body the lessons I learned from a sick one.

    Sir, I’m sorry this is a long letter, but I write it all to say some of God’s best work is done when we have nothing left but him to cling to; and when we desire him more than life itself. Through many pains in life, I have discovered my Lord is so sweet and his presence so dear when we choose to seek him in the pain.

    Blessings in your writing, and I look forward to reading more. Your God-given words are meat and feed my soul as there aren’t many who speak with the boldness about suffering as you do. I’m grateful for your willingness to share your journey with us. May God continue to strengthen you to be able to do so. I hope my words are received with the gratitude and respect with which they are given, and are not seen as diminishing the suffering you face, as my heart breaks for it. Thank you, respectfully, Robin.


  3. Thank you. Dear Pastor B! I had been reading and thinking about suffering, for so many of us do suffer. Here’s a little poem . .

    Oh Lord I
    abandon myself
    into Your
    righteous hand

    for Your word is
    my lamp and light
    Your will the path
    on which I stand.


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you. So true, so difficult, so much easier to accept when we acknowledge our own and others’ suffering–enough to have empathy and compassion–even for our own suffering. Not so much that we focus on it, but always circle back around to the meaning in it and getting closer to God.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Bryan, I have a question, but I would like to ask you privately, before posting it publicly. If you would, please reply via e-mail. BTW, its been a long time, glad to see you posting again.

    Liked by 1 person

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