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Suffering and Adversity

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Why? Why me? Why my family? What is the meaning of this suffering?

These are familiar questions which are asked by Christians and non-Christians alike. No one is immune to suffering and adversity. "Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7, KJV). There are the pressures of want, need, sorrow, persecution, unpopularity, and loneliness. Some suffer for what they have done; others suffer because of what people do to them. Many suffer because they are victims of circumstances which they cannot control.

Pain is distressing. There can be nights of agony when God seems so unfair and it seems that there is no possible help or answer. Temporary relief may seem adequate, but the real solution to suffering is not to isolate it in an attempt to do away with it, nor even to grit our teeth and endure it. The solution, rather, is to condition our attitudes so that we learn to triumph in and through suffering. When the Apostle Paul sought relief from his "thorn in the flesh," God did not take it away, but reassured him with: "My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9, KJV). In another encouragement to the Corinthians, he wrote, "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8, KJV).

Except for physical pain, handling suffering seems to be a question of attitude: "What am I going to do in the face of suffering in order to learn from it and use it for my advantage as far as God's eternal purposes are concerned?"

Billy Graham comments: "Nowhere does the Bible teach that Christians are exempt from the tribulations and natural disasters that come upon the world. Scripture does teach that the Christian can face tribulation, crisis, calamity, and personal suffering with a supernatural power that is not available to the person outside of Christ."

Some of the most pathetic people in the world are those who, in the midst of adversity, indulge themselves by wallowing in self-pity and bitterness, all the while taking a sort of delight in blaming God for their problems.

Job's attitude is an inspiration: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Job 13:15).

The sufferer will be blessed if, in the midst of great agony and despair, he can look into the face of his Heavenly Father and, because of His eternal love and presence, be grateful. Our response to suffering should lead us to look beyond it in the attempt to see God's higher purposes and what He wants to teach us.