Suffering is an issue all people experience. Acts 14:22 says of Christians, “Through many tribulations we will enter the Kingdom of God.”
When someone suffers, we might think they did something to deserve it or we may respond with compassion for them. In the Christian church, when a believer suffers, some have said they suffer because of sin in their life. Some people question God or get angry at God when they or a family member suffers. Christians in the Middle East are suffering; I pray for them, I read about them, but I have to be honest, I do not feel their pain.
If you have ever been part of a church, you know people suffer. The church is full of people who suffer spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. In the church, we are called to “bear one another burdens.” When you suffer as a Christian, if you trust God, he uses that suffering to equip you to minister to others who are suffering.
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:4, “God comforts us in all afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
I am thankful for believers whom God has used to comfort my family in our times of suffering.
Seven years ago — I remember the day and the time — my son called and told me, “Dad, they cannot find a heartbeat.” My grandson, Caleb, died that day. I remember the people of God who comforted my son and daughter-in-law. I remember the believers who comforted us. We suffered — but God used Caleb’s death to open many doors of ministry to others. My wife and I saw our son and daughter-in-law use their pain for the glory of God.
In 2009 our granddaughter was born. Halfway through the pregnancy, the medical people told our kids this baby would expire when she was born. She had multiple problems. I still remember the nurse coming around the corner with such amazement — “She is pink and crying.”
Charity had two brain surgeries in the next few weeks. When she was a year old, she had hand surgery. Suffering. Three years later, she had another surgery on her hand. This past summer she had surgery on her bladder. Charity has suffered. Her parents have suffered. All through this suffering, God has used Ben and Becky in the lives of many others who have suffered.
After her fifth birthday in August, news came Charity had been having headaches. Tests revealed she has a tumor. More suffering. The tumor was removed right away. No headaches — but the cancer remains. The threat of suffering continues.
Again, the parents continue to trust God and comfort others who are suffering. God is good. God is faithful. God can be trusted. Three weeks ago, the headaches returned. Suffering continues to shout.
We find ourselves again speaking the words of Psalm 77 — “We cry aloud to God, aloud to God and he will hear us.” There is no doubt suffering drives you deeper into the face of God.
Ben Fleming is the pastor of Silver Hills Community Church.