Comfort for the Suffering
“Every trial is a messenger”
When faced with your own personal suffering you shouldn’t be surprised that you are thrown into complete turmoil of mind. By nature, we are inclined to feel immune to trouble until it comes knocking at our own door. Then we ask, Why me? While the real question should be, Why not me? We have all seen hospital beds filled to capacity with the suffering. We have all read the news about how the brightest medical minds and the fittest athletes succumb to diseases or to injuries. Most act bravely when others suffer, but when the curtains are drawn around their own hospital bed to receive a doctor’s bleak news about their failing health they are often rocked to the very core. May these few pointers direct your heart in a time of trouble.
When trials fall upon us, we are tempted to question God’s love.
In times of trial remember that God’s goodness never changes. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He that sitteth in the heavens is still on the throne and in complete control. He is always governing His creatures in wisdom combined with His love and totally controlled by His unfailing power. Therefore, what befalls us is within His control and is part of His eternal plan.
Every trial is God’s messenger to turn you unto God’s Son for mercy. It is a pebble in your shoe to stop you from walking in rebellion to God. If the prodigal son had only fallen on good times, he would never have returned home to his father’s house to find such a kind and ready welcome. So, through the reverses of your life God is calling you to leave the world and turn to Him as your loving heavenly Father.
If you are a Christian, and you truly walk with God, He will use your present trials to increase your faith and deepen your experience of His grace.
Rev. C. H. Spurgeon wrote,
“God often sends us trials that our graces may be discovered, and that we may be certified of their existence… for you cannot know that you have faith until your faith is exercised.”
So, trials are times to take stock of the direction that your life is headed. If you madly press on without considering the state of your soul, and without turning to God, you may find that He will strive against you. But if you desire to know God and to be reconciled to Him, then accept the trial as a loving Father’s plea calling you to seek Him with all your heart. Be assured that out of His heart of infinite love He will have compassion on you.
When enduring trials, don’t lose sight of the blessing of justification by faith in Christ alone.
In times of suffering, you must not allow guilt to burden your heart. You must not allow the devil to shout “guilty”, “guilty”, only to drive you into self-condemnation. Rather, take hope in knowing that Christ died in the place of sinners. He bore sin in his own body, “The just for the unjust to bring us to God” (1Peter 3:18). God has declared you to be just in His sight, all because of Christ’s substitutionary death at Calvary. That means God will treat you just as if you had never sinned. Remember that as a justified sinner you have a debt-free standing with God because Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice to the Father on your behalf.
“Lean all the more on the Lord for His saving power.”
Rest in the full assurance that the Lord Jesus will not fail to be your Saviour from all the guilt and condemnation of sin. He will answer every accusation against you. He is faithful and just.
Know, therefore, that when a blood-washed believer in the Lord Jesus suffers pain it is not payment for sin. This is true because our sins are already pardoned by the blood of Jesus. God’s saving mercy toward you has not changed, whether you be in health or in sickness. Let that truth comfort your heart.
When suffering trials, believers can enjoy full assurance of salvation.
“Though the Lord is an almighty Saviour, we are weak believers.”
Christ’s work on the cross as our sin-bearer was perfect, but our enjoyment of assurance is imperfect. All Christians have to pray, “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” All Christians are subject to doubts and fears. For this reason, the Lord must nurture our faith. He must feed us from His word and give us constant reassurances of His love to our souls. The Bible contains many “fear not,” statements as well as precious promises to reassure troubled hearts.
When you suffer, claim the blessed assurance that is yours as a believer in Christ. Never let go of it, but feed on it constantly. Take to heart with full confidence that the Lord is yours and you are His forever. Christians have done this for centuries as expressed in this answer to the Heidelberg Catechism Question in 1619.
Heidelberg Catechism Question 1. What is your only comfort in life and death?
That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.
He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.
Even in suffering we live for the Lord and may enjoy His grace in our souls. A colleague of mine while suffering from a lesion growing in his brain, testified of experiencing God’s grace ministered to his heart in a wonderful way. He wrote this to his praying friends,
“Both my wife and I are overwhelmed at the love and concern that has been shown to us by our ministers and churches. We feel ourselves to be part of the best family in the world. I am even more overcome at the abundant grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Words are inadequate to describe what I have experienced over the past few weeks. I have been converted just over fifty years, but what the Lord has done for me in these past days has surpassed anything I have ever known. The Lord has given a peace and joy which I would never want to miss. To the onlooker it may seem strange to say that the experience has been a real blessing to me. This is the will of God for me at this time and we must submit to Him who does all things well. The medical team have left no stone unturned to identify exactly how to treat the condition. I am still undergoing tests which ultimately should give direction as to the action that needs to be taken. All we ask for is prayer that wisdom be granted the doctors and that the Lord will continue to uphold us.”
Every Christian may enjoy such grace. The apostle Paul prayed for a physical problem to be removed, but God said, No. Yet God did something more wonderful, he promised grace to bear it and profit from it.
“Sickness and suffering are messengers to warn us to prepare to meet God.”
“For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
It is right for you to seek the Lord’s grace to carry you through your pain and suffering. His power will be real to you when you call on Him to minister to your heart. He is full of grace and truth. “And of His fulness have we all received, and grace for grace” (John 1:13). You will experience that too.
In sickness, we must not fall into an unbelieving fear of death.
Sickness and its many forms of trouble warn us to prepare for the day of our death. It is natural to feel the sharp arrow of such fear in our hearts when diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease. More than ever, when threatened by serious illness we will dare to fight for life. That is because death is unnatural. It is not something that is built into us from our creation. Death is the result of sin. It is part of the curse upon this fallen world. We are all mortal, for as soon as we are born, we begin to die. Throughout our lives, death stalks us and we live in fear of being struck down. But it is reassuring to know that our death is by divine appointment. The Bible states, “… it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
Our hope in life and in death is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. He has tasted death for us. By offering up Himself to God as a sacrifice for sin, He has taken our judgment upon Himself. He has settled sin’s account and bought our salvation.
This is the blessed hope that every Christian is invited to enter. Do not place yourself outside of this hope. Trust in the Lord now and He will save your soul. He will give you eternal life so that you are fitted for life with God in heaven. This is the hope of the gospel.
But you might be asking, how shall we face the enemy of death in our bodies? The Bible gives a happy perspective of death for the Christian. Death for the believer is called "sleep". This is because death’s sting is removed by the resurrection of the Lord. On the third day, that resurrection day, the Lord triumphed over death, when He rose from the grave. He conquered death for all who trust their souls to Him. Therefore, it is true that the day of a Christian’s death is better than the day of his or her birth.
You may be asking, How can this be? Remember, that at the heart of the gospel is the truth that believers are united to the Lord. As branches to a vine, or as members of the human body to the head. So believers are in living union with the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Bible declares this to be an indissoluble union.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35 – 39).
In real ways, believers in Christ shall be given dying grace. The Lord will not fail His children when they pass from this world into heaven. In that hour, the Lord will be with them as the Shepherd of their souls. King David would have all Old Testament believers sing:
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” (Psalm 23:4).
One has stated,
“When the fruit is still green it will hold on to the tree with great strength. When fruit grows fully ripe it is ready to drop off the tree. Its attachment to the tree grows less and less. Likewise, when God is preparing us for heaven, He works in us so that we are less attached to this world. This [dying] grace is not given until we are near to be taken home.”
The blessing of God’s grace to the dying is reassuring for all who trust in the Lord Jesus for salvation. Let me quote a renowned gospel minister who witnessed the experiences of many in death.
“The power of our holy religion comes in. How calm, how resigned, sometimes how triumphant, how ecstatic, is the frame of mind of the departing believer! I never heard one of them regret that he was a Christian. In time when we sift what they have done and believed, and when they tell no lies, for the naked truth comes up before them, I have heard them glory in belonging to Christ, and in resting in him; but I have never heard them regret that they did so. Our religion is not all of the future; it is not a thing that dreams concerning the world to come. It gives us present joy, present strength, present comfort, and we commend it to you most heartily, for this is our duty, to be witnesses for Christ” (Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon).
Although all will struggle with many emotions about death, believers on the Lord know that the He has taken the sting out of death by his own resurrection. They also know they are going to a better place. The apostle Paul put it this way, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better (Philippians 1:23). The sure knowledge that we will be with Christ is our comfort, when our hearts are fixed upon Him." C.H. Spurgeon
If you have not already called on Him to be your Saviour, be sure to invite the Lord Jesus into your heart today.
In a time of sickness, keep up your personal devotions.
Our faith needs to be fed. It often turns out, however, in suffering we are incapable of attending church to enjoy the ministry of God’s word and the fellowship of the saints. In ill health, we have short attention spans and sometimes are incapable of thinking clearly. It is then that we need help. Ask someone to read a portion of the Bible to you and have them explain its meaning in clear terms. Write out a few of God’s precious promises on cards for ready reference. Call on your pastor to minister to you from God’s word and to pray with you. Most likely, he will be able to answer your questions and settle your mind on issues that he has already worked through. Implore him for the prayers of God’s people at your church. The united prayers of God’s people are very powerful.
The apostle James said,
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
"Prayer makes the darken'd cloud withdraw;
Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw;
Gives exercise to faith and love;
Brings every blessing from above."
Christian, God may be pruning you, so you may bear more fruit, or He may be polishing you to change you into His likeness.
While you suffer in the body take care of your soul. If you are not saved, remember that your suffering is God’s messenger to awaken you out of your sleep toward your sin. Do not belittle the gentle rebukes of the Lord. The Lord is striving with you calling you to turn to Him for mercy. He calls you to be saved from the sin that separates you from His love.
Make use of the promises of God. As you read the Bible mark them; then go to them often to plead the Lord’s mercies for your soul. Submit to the purposes and will of God, rather than fight them. Pray for peace in your soul – “The peace of God which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
Some of God’s precious promises to those who suffer:
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Hebrews 13:5
“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 43:2).
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11).”
“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Revelation 14:12-13).
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).
Ian Goligher (Posted Dec. 10, 2020)