Lighting the Candle: When the righteous suffer -Part 1

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” – John 16: 33

The world today continues to experience various forms of hardships ranging from disasters, persecution, wars to chronic diseases. Philosophers, scientists, and other theorists have attempted in vain to find permanent solutions to this. Theories have been developed but none appears to be a reliable tool for eradicating suffering. Christians, by virtue of being in the world, have not been exempted from this.

Munthali: Lighting the candle

In view of that, the world has been left pondering on ways of establishing a stable and convenient solution, a thing that appears to be more of a dream than a reality. However, regardless of all such futile attempts to completely rid the world of suffering, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, remains the sole hope.

At the outset, the fact that we are Christians does not grant us immunity to suffering. Paul (1Cor1:3-11) emphasizes that the Christian life includes both suffering and the comfort of Christ. Jesus Christ himself suffered on our behalf. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, He instructed himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2: 23).  In fact, 1 Peter 3: 14 talks about God’s guaranteed protection to those who suffer for doing good, and further calls them blessed for suffering for what is right. 1 Peter 4: 12-19 encourages believers who were suffering for being Christians through various forms of persecution by urging them to rejoice that they had participated in the sufferings of Christ, so that they may be overjoyed when Christ’s glory is revealed.

“If you are insulted because of the name of Jesus Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (I peter 4: 14-16)

No wonder Jesus Christ was forced to pray for the divine strengthening of the church before ascension partly in response to the prevalence of suffering in the world (John 17). In fact, Jesus Christ further predicted of trouble and suffering for His disciples (Christians) in this world. He however declared that because He had overcome the world (John 16) everyone who puts his or her trust in Him during trying moments will also overcome the world by experiencing His peace which surpasses all understanding.

Hebrews 2: 14-18 states that for sure it is not angels that Jesus Christ helps, but Abraham’s descendants [Note we are Abraham’s descendants through faith in Christ Jesus]. For this reason Jesus had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because He himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. And the Bible further states that the fact that Jesus was tempted in every way but did not sin He will not permit us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, and even in such temptations [or suffering] He will provide a way out.

Conversely, our response to suffering is different to those who are non-believers. Endurance, patience, joy, and comfort in Christ Jesus make us hopeful and strong in troubles. In actual fact, God comforts his children by sending the Holy Spirit, who strengthens, comforts, help, advice, advocate, and intercede for them in hardships. Through this divine comfort, Christians become aware that God allows suffering for a particular reason. For instance, God may permit suffering as an act of disciplining his children, or as a way of demonstrating his saving power towards us especially after experiencing his intervention in the situation.

In some cases, God may allow suffering as a preparatory measure for a greater challenge or calling that he wants to entrust you, a challenge that demands fervent faith in the Lord.In addition, Paul makes it clear that God sometimes allows us to suffer so that we may not rely on ourselves but have confidence and trust in him, and that after experiencing God’s comfort in our trouble, we should be able to comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from Him (2Corinthians1:3-16). In other words, suffering in such cases equips us for ministry – that is reaching out to the needs of others.

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