Dear Church Family,
This week our family has faced a lot of suffering. Two of our members and former members went home to be with the Lord. Their suffering is over, but we grieve their loss. Three of our other members have been in the hospital. Many others among us are struggling with health, relationship, and other issues.
No doubt we are all aware of the reality of suffering, but when we face suffering, we may find ourselves angry or confused. Suffering does not always seem justified. How could God allow a good person to suffer? How can he allow suffering at all?
We may all be familiar with God’s promise to use our suffering for our good (Romans 8:28), but we may not see how God could use a particular trial for our good.
One of my heroes is Corrie Ten Boom. As a young woman, her family took in Jews and hid them from the Nazis during the Genocidal reign of the Third Reich. Corrie, her father and her sister were arrested and placed in a concentration camp where they faced unbelievable suffering. Corrie alone survived.
When Corrie was in the concentration camp, her sister continually reminded her of the need to forgive and pray for her captors. Corrie struggled to forgive, but surrendered herself to the Lord and asked the Holy Spirit to replace her anger and bitterness with the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
After the war, Corrie went back to her captors and told them that she had forgiven them. She shared the love of Jesus with them. Corrie later traveled around to churches sharing her story. Her message was simple, Jesus’ love is enough to get us through the most difficult trials, and He grants us his love that we may forgive, pray for, and even love our worst enemies. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies in Matthew 5:44, and to forgive one another in the parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:21-35. Corrie discovered that she could not love her enemies without the Holy Spirit granting her the love of Christ. Paul taught us this lesson in Galatians 5:22-23.
Perhaps the most difficult part of Corrie’s story for me is the last few years of her life. In 1978, at the age of 86, Corrie suffered two strokes which left her unable to speak. During the early part of her adult life she suffered because she was imprisoned in a concentration camp. But for the last five years of her life, she suffered the imprisonment of a stroke. She could not communicate with anyone. Finally she was freed when God took her home at the age of 91.
Why did God allow such a godly woman, who loved her enemies and lived a selfless life of worship, suffer so much at the end of her life? Surely it was not so she could sympathize with others who suffer. Nor was it so she could testify to the goodness of God in the midst of her suffering. For she never had the opportunity to tell us what it was like to be imprisoned in her own mind for her final 5 years on this earth.
We may never know exactly why God allows us to suffer. But this we do know, that God is glorified when we continue to trust and hope in Him through our suffering. When Satan incited God to allow him to torment Job, it was so that God would be glorified in Job’s faith. Job learned obedience and faith through his suffering. Jesus did too (Hebrews 5:8). God allows us to suffer in part that we may learn obedience. Holiness is more precious than happiness, for it glorifies God and leads to eternal life.
God granted Job twice the wealth after his suffering as he had before. For those of us who persevere through the brief suffering of this life, God will grant us eternal life free of all pain, suffering and sorrows. May God grant us faith in the midst of our suffering that we may persevere.