As someone who has battled a chronic illness for the past 25 years, suffering has been a topic I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about.
Whenever someone tells me they don’t have recurring pain or never need to take IB Profen, I’m always taken back. Pain is such a regular part of my life that I assume everyone has chronic pain.
They may not suffer from migraines like me, but they surely have back issues or bad knees.
It leads me to ask, “Why do I suffer from (sometimes) daily, physical pain and the person next to me doesn’t? She’s never even had a headache.”
Of course, most of the time, I’m not aware of what that person’s struggles are. She may not have physical pain, but pain is relative. I’m also fully aware that there are people who suffer in greater pain than me.
But that doesn’t stop me from asking God, “Why?”
Asking this question is similar to asking why God allows terrible things to happen. They both are wrapped up in His Will that we cannot fully understand on this side of heaven.
When you’re lying in bed, unable to move and take care of your kids due to extreme pain, that answer doesn’t provide much comfort.
But what does provide comfort is knowing that my Savoir cares about me. He cares about my pain and wants me to come to Him about it.
I have a friend that has fibromyalgia which, if you don’t know anything about it, is a very painful condition but, unfortunately, not acknowledged as an official condition by many doctors. As a result, my friend is confined to her bed or at least her house more often than not. She has felt insignificant and unable to work and has struggled with her purpose.
And yet, what she has come to see is that God never asks us to “work harder” or “prove our worth to him.” Instead, she spends much of her time in prayer for others. She has found her purpose through crying out to God and being in constant community with Him.
The Bible is full of verses and stories about suffering. But, even more importantly, it is full of verses about God’s presence during our times of suffering. So no matter what we are going through in this life, we can comfort knowing that our God is always with us.
Are there any benefits of suffering? Is there good in our pain?
God will heal us
First, I want to acknowledge that God does heal us from our pain, but it will not be on this side of heaven for some of us.
he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away. - Revelation 21:4
We see Jesus heal many times in the Gospels. For example, Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, and He healed the centurion’s daughter and brought her back to life. He healed the woman who touched his robe.
So ask God for healing. Ask others to pray for your healing.
Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. - James 5:14-15N
Not everyone experiencing healing on This side of heaven
The Apostle Paul writes of an affliction that he prayed multiple times to be free from. However, God said no, saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”
As a result, Paul said he boasted in his weaknesses so that Christ’s power would be evident.
Being Physically weak causes us to look to God.
If we are self-sufficient (in any area of our life), our human nature is to think we’ve got this and not bring it to God. For example, if you have plenty of money and never have to worry about where your next meal is coming from, you most likely don’t lean on God for each paycheck.
When we depend on God for our very health, we have an opportunity to grow closer to Him.
What if our suffering is not necessarily for our benefit but the benefit of someone else in the future? I imagine God smiling when we show others the love and concern He has shown us.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus - 1 Thessalonians 5:18
This one is hard.
A pain-free life isn’t necessarily God’s will for us. A life of comfort rarely grows us. When we are in the thick of our pain, are we thanking God? Do we have a posture of gratefulness?
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. - 1 Peter 1:6-7
But He promises to be there with us at every step.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matt 11:28
It’s no secret that pain changes us. When we are experiencing pain, we tend to be less gracious to others, annoyed more easily, and irritable. The saying, “hurt people, hurt people,” rings true.
But Jesus understands.
Jesus knows what it feels like to suffer physically, mentally, and emotionally. None of Jesus’s followers looked at Jesus on the cross and thought, “this is good.” It wasn’t until after the cross and death and resurrection that we could see the good from the bad.
The same is true for us.
What would it look like for you to suffer well? To lean into God and His word. To focus on gratefulness and praying for others.
It won’t be easy, but He doesn’t ask us to do it alone.
God is right there with us, even in our darkest moments. He may not change our circumstances, but He understands what we’re going through, and He promises never to leave us or forsake us.
Check out the Mini Faith Bundle for similar content to help you grow in your faith journey.