Hope Amid Suffering
I don’t think it is possible to have a genuine conversation with someone without eventually conversing about suffering. We all suffer. No one is immune to it; no one avoids suffering. Eventually we find ourselves in situations that make our hearts sink, our bones feel dry, and our souls heavy and crushed. Suffering is a result of the sinfulness in this world. We live in a world of profound pain because of Adam’s sin against God (Gen 3:6; Rom 5:17).
However, Adam’s sin has prevailed against us and we suffer from our own sinfulness, the sins of others against us, sins of the world, and the deceitfulness of the devil. We suffer from other people’s pain, confusion, and death. If people spoke honestly about their lives, and we weren’t mystified and fooled by Instagram filters, and perfectly positioned headshots on Facebook, they would all say the same thing: “we are rather miserable, life is not what we wished it to be.”
“Have faith in God’s goodness and his promises to strengthen us and the rest he offers for our souls”
Now, for the Christian this is not the end of the story. Paul instructs us by saying that those who desire to live godly lives will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12) and that we were destined for affliction (1 Thessalonians 3:3). But unlike the those who don’t know Christ, we have much hope amid our suffering. Christians have the hope of heaven.
One of the greatest and most comforting promises that our Lord has made to us is found in the opening verses of John 14:
"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (italics added) - John 14:1-3
This passage is warm with comfort and assurance. This passage does not reveal details about heaven, nor does it reveal information about life after death, nor is it even the most comprehensive passage about heaven found in scripture. The reason this passage is so fond to so many, is because of the warm and inviting image that is found there: heaven is a home. We need a home. We long for a home. We are people displaced and wanting of something this world cannot offer. And Jesus, in this passage promises that he is making a home for us.
“Imagine your father, mother, sister, spouse, or child standing in the presence of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ exalting him in singing praises to his name, with no pain or tears or suffering!”
Jesus tells his disciples “let not your hearts be troubled.” They were nearing his crucifixion, and they were about to witness the Son of God die upon a cursed cross, and amid this looming tragedy, he comforts them: “Let not your hearts be troubled” - do not be vanquished and overwhelmed by this crisis, remain brave, courageous and steadfast. But upon what grounds is Christ telling them to do this? How are they to remain untroubled when their world is close to being devastated? How could anyone?
Christ tells them to have faith in himself; to believe in God. He instructs them to, by faith, go to him because he was to be exalted and acknowledged to be the Son of God, who has in himself a sufficiency of strength for maintaining the safety of his followers. Have faith in God’s goodness (Psalm 119:68) and his promises to strengthen us (Isaiah 41:10) and the rest he offers for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30).
He comforts his disciples, telling them that their hope is not lost, because Jesus is preparing a home for them, one where their greatest delight will be their reunion with Christ. This is for us today as well. Imagine your father, mother, sister, spouse, or child standing in the presence of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ exalting him in singing praises to his name, with no pain or tears or suffering! Right now! Imagine this heavenly home that our Lord has promised, awaits all those who are in Christ! What a glorious thought in deed.
“Fix your eyes on him today whether you are in a trial or not, thank him for this time of ease and rest, and ask him to prepare your heart for the times of suffering that may come”
We can look to heaven with great anticipation and hope knowing that God in Christ has prepared a place for us; a place where there will be no suffering. We can press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14) because of the strength we gain from the hope we have in Christ. But heaven has come to earth as well. Listen to our Lord’s prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). We are comforted here and now by the God of all comfort.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” - 1 Peter 5:10
And Paul likewise says:
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” - 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
We are a people who have a magnanimous God who is ready, always to provide the comforts and hope that we need. Our God sympathizes with our weakness (Hebrews 4:15), he shows compassion to us as a father to his own children (psalm 103:13), in every affliction he comforts us (2 Corinthians 1:4), and he restores our soul (Psalm 23).
Suffering usually forces us to focus more on Christ but let me extend a challenge to you; fix your eyes on him today whether you are in a trial or not, thank him for this time of ease and rest, and ask him to prepare your heart for the times of suffering that may come. However, we who are in Christ resound with triumph - the triumph over sin, death, and the grave - the words of Paul
“So, we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (Italics added) - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18