Everbody Hurts

Everybody Hurts

Has anyone ever asked you how you were doing and you said, "I’m fine" when you didn’t mean it? I know I have.

A farmer named Joe made that mistake once. He decided that his injuries from an accident were serious enough to take the trucking company that was responsible for the accident to court. In court, the trucking company’s lawyer was questioning farmer Joe.

"Didn’t you say, at the scene of the accident, ’I’m fine’?" questioned the lawyer.

Farmer Joe responded, "Well, I’ll tell you what happened. I had just loaded my favorite mule Bessie into the..."

"I didn’t ask for any details," the lawyer interrupted, "just answer the question. Did you not say, at the scene of the accident, ’I’m fine’!"

Farmer Joe said, "Well, I had just got Bessie into the trailer and I was driving down the road..."

The lawyer interrupted again and said, "Judge, I am trying to establish the fact that, at the scene of the accident, this man told the Highway Patrolman on the scene that he was just fine. Now several weeks after the accident he is trying to sue my client. I believe he is a fraud. Please tell him to simply answer the question."

By this time the Judge was fairly interested in Farmer Joe’s answer so he said to the lawyer, "I’d like to hear what he has to say about his favorite mule Bessie."

Joe thanked the Judge and proceeded, "Well, as I was saying, I had just loaded Bessie, my favorite mule, into the trailer and was driving her down the highway when this huge semi-truck and trailer ran the stop sign and smacked my truck right in the side. I was thrown into one ditch and Bessie was thrown into the other. I was hurting real bad and didn’t want to move. However, I could hear ole Bessie moaning and groaning. I knew she was in terrible shape just by her groans.

"Shortly after the accident a Highway Patrolman came on the scene. He could hear Bessie moaning and groaning so he went over to her. After he looked at her, he took out his gun and shot her between the eyes. Then the Patrolman came across the road with his gun still in his hand and looked at me. He said, "Your mule was in such bad shape I had to shoot her. How are you feeling?"

It was then that I said, "I’m fine!!"

Suffering is something that we all deal with during our lives, either in the body or the mind. Suffering can come at a moment’s notice and when least expected. It comes in different ways: financial, relational, physical, and emotional, just to name a few.

God is not the architect of suffering. Our enemy, the devil, caused suffering by convincing man to disobey God and eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Many times, we are still choosing the fruit of the knowledge of evil and we suffer the consequences of our choices.

Sometimes we don’t choose evil and we still suffer from the evil choices of others. The most popular question we always want to ask is “why”? Why does God, if He is so powerful, allow me, my friend at work, family member whom I love dearly, or even the person I don’t know to suffer trials and tribulations? Above all, remember God is not the architect of the suffering. God is love and for those who love God, there is this assurance:

Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

When a person is saved through faith in Jesus Christ, followed by repentance and baptism, our suffering does not stop. However, our suffering now works together for good. As long as we are in this world, Jesus says we will have trouble and suffer.

John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Pain and suffering are in this world because of our sin. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us where these elements do not exist. He will return to judge the devil and all those that cause suffering, who have not made Him their Savior.

1Pet 1:3-7 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In 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 your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Peter himself had to deal with suffering. Peter had to deal with the suffering of failure. He suffered persecution while preaching in Jerusalem. He suffered trials and temptations while on missionary journeys.

Therefore, Peter encourages us to rejoice in the midst of our suffering by responding to something other than our immediate circumstances. Though the situation is bleak, there is a bigger picture behind what we see and feel. Peter tells us that while we are suffering, God gives us the strength and grace to rely on a living hope, that gives us the ability to look towards an inheritance, that never fades or perishes.

Oswald Chambers wrote: “Suffering is the heritage of the bad, of the penitent, and of the Son of God. Each one ends on the cross. The bad thief is crucified, the penitent thief is crucified, and the Son of God is crucified. By these signs we know the widespread heritage of suffering.”

Everyone suffers, both the saved and the lost. Since we are going to suffer in this life anyway, we might as well make it count for good. In other words, if we are going to be judged for everything that we say, do, or think, we might as well make every single second of our life count on the good side rather than evil.

1 Pet 2:19-25 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

If we are suffering from the consequences of our own actions, we should respond to the suffering as discipline from the Lord. If we are suffering because of the sin of others, we should pray for grace to be conformed to the image of Christ, who suffered from the sin of others and not from anything He did.

1 Pet 4:12-19 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.  However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Why do Christians suffer for their faith? Because we have chosen a path that the world rejects.

1Co 4:11-14 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.  I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children.

“We have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.” That is strong language from the Apostle Paul, but true. Sin is dominating the world. And when the world looks for a person to blame for all its troubles, they look at the Christian first. To the government, the entertainment industry, and academia, we are a hated people because we stand up for the Truth, we rock their boat, and we call evil as it is.

Many today, who are their own little god, are calling, Good - evil and evil - Good. As the cancer of sin grows, they are ignoring God’s warning and are rebuilding Babylon with nightclubs, homosexual parades, earth worship, and a total Eco-system of non-conformity toward God’s Word. Instead of looking for the cure, mankind is trying to spread sin to all around to build a new consensus of what is right and wrong. Corruption, homosexuality, theft, prostitution, false doctrine, rape, lies, drunkenness, drug abuse, pride, abortion, child abuse, unbelief, all of these and more are symptoms of sin, eating away at the very fabric of mankind and a moral society.

This is where Jesus’ example of how to endure suffering is most applicable to us. If we are suffering for doing good or for choosing to follow Christ, we should do so with the goal of enduring it, entrusting ourselves to God who sees and hears and delivers.

Heb 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Jesus knows how you feel when you suffer and He will give us His power and grace to endure it if we look to Him.

Rom 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Generally, we can understand why we suffer when we sin. And often, when Christians are persecuted for their faith, there is a corresponding supernatural strength and grace to endure. We see God glorified in that kind of suffering, even though it is horrible and may result in death.

What tests our faith is suffering that is the result of someone else’s sin; such as, people being killed by a drunk driver, or the innocent victims of other crimes. It is during those senseless, unjust times that we cry out “why?” and we have the hardest time knowing how to respond.

It helps to remember that Jesus suffered unjustly from the sins of others, including our sin. He committed no sin. He was pure and innocent. Nevertheless, He suffered for our sin and God allowed it. This is hard for us to understand, because it takes divine love to choose to suffer unjustly and do it without doubting God’s love. Like Jesus, we must faithfully trust our Father during those times.

When we are hurt, and the pain (physical or emotional) seems unbearable, and there doesn’t seem to be any good reason for our suffering, for what has happened is unjust, unfair, and evil, what should we do?

1. Ask God for His Presence.
Don’t get mad at God for the unjust suffering. Don’t turn your back on Him. It is the wrong time to abandon Jesus. God did not cause it. We need to see God working in our lives, in the good, and in what we perceive as the bad. We need draw near to God to ask Him for comfort and grace to endure. That is His promise to us.

2. Ask God for a Miracle.
This is what God told us to do. When Jesus encountered suffering, He did something about it. He healed, He set free, He did miracles so that people would be relieved of suffering. So our response is to go to God and ask for a miracle that would glorify Him. We know that God hates suffering – by the simple fact that there is none in heaven – and so we can ask with confidence, knowing that God hurts along with us, and knows the purpose for the suffering.

3. Accept God’s Answer.
There are times when, for whatever reason, God may allow the suffering to continue. And in these cases, after we go through all the feelings that naturally come, faith in God and His love will eventually bring us to a point of acceptance—“not my will, but thine be done.” We may or may not understand “why” later on.

4. Minister to Others out of your Suffering.
Once we have come through a time of suffering, and have seen the other side, we are powerfully equipped by the Holy Spirit to minister to others going through similar things. We have a powerful ability to understand what others are feeling when we have felt it too.

2 Cor 1:3-7 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 have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Although lots of things about suffering are unclear, there are two things we can believe with complete confidence, regardless of the cause of our suffering.

1. God knows. He sees, He feels the pain, He hates suffering even more than you and I. Suffering was not His choice for mankind. The devil continues to fill our minds with questions of doubt about God’s love. Even though we chose evil and suffer the consequences, God’s love remains. Whether we suffer from our own sin or the sin of others, God is with us, whether we feel Him or not. Reach out to Him for strength and comfort.

2. God made us to need each other. Even as Jesus was suffering on the cross, His mother was there, some of her close friends were with her, and so was the disciple John. We need each other. Allow others to come beside you in your suffering to support, encourage, and walk with you. One of the best ways to do this is in a small church, or when the church is large, a home fellowship group. We can be thankful for the love and support we experience in this church.

Rom 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

God may not tell us all we want to know about our sufferings, why we are not healed, or why we lost our job, or why we lost a loved one. There are many things in life that belong only to the Lord. He wants us to trust Him and persevere when suffering comes our way. At such times, we must believe that God is a God of compassion and mercy, who re-works all the evil for our good and His glory. Some insight may come later, sometimes years later, when we can say, “Now I see why that was happening, and now I see how it was a display of God’s compassion and mercy towards me.” “Now I see how the Father was loving me and disciplining me as His child.”

John 15:1-2 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

One good thing God is doing through our suffering is pruning us so that we will bear more fruit of the Holy Spirit. Be sure to respond to His pruning with trust and perseverance. If we do, God will develop in us all the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which will glorify God. A believer who endures suffering with patience glorifies God because he abides in God and God abides in him.

Therefore, have the same attitude as Paul, who said, Rom 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Paul encountered many events in his life that would have left him knowing the truth of his own writing. Paul had five times received thirty-nine lashes. Three times was beaten with rods, once he was stoned, three times he was ship wrecked, and he spent a night and a day in the open sea. He spent his life constantly on the move, often in danger. Eventually, he was imprisoned for years without a trial. Finally, he was unjustly executed. Why would God allow such a faithful man to suffer so much?

Paul understood that he was being transformed into the likeness of Christ. No matter what happened in the past (Paul persecuted Christ and the Church), he knew that his life was right with God. In spite of the injustice of his suffering, Paul knew he was justified with God. Therefore, to suffer as one of God’s children, to suffer like Jesus, is a high honor.

When we enter into a relationship with Jesus, it is our calling to become like Jesus. Notice the verse that follows Romans 8:28, that tells us God works all things for good, and discover God’s purpose.

Rom 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

God works everything for good, even the pain and suffering caused by sin. With the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, we are on a journey to become like Jesus and spend eternity with Him.

Are you prepared for eternity? Or have you been avoiding the gift of salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ, because you didn’t want to suffer from being a Christian in this evil world? Suffer now for following Jesus or suffer for eternity for going your own way—it is your choice. Either way, you will suffer. It cannot be avoided.