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Finding Purpose in Times of Suffering: A Christian Perspective

04/02/2024
Finding Purpose in Times of Suffering: A Christian Perspective, a blog by Gillian Leggat

If it was up to you, would you choose to live a life completely free of any suffering? No illness. No close family members dying. No money problems. Always having enough to go around.

Unfortunately – or is it fortunately – we live in a fallen world. Every single one of us, some more than others, will experience suffering at some stage. So, as people of the Christian faith, we need to understand what it is all for. There must be a purpose to suffering. Right? Otherwise, why would God allow it?

Why do we suffer?

Think about the Bible's two most extreme examples of suffering: Job and Jesus. Whatever suffering we experience in this life would never even come close to what Job went through: losing all his children, all his possessions, all his lands; being inflicted with painful sores all over his body; being scorned and vilified by all his friends; and feeling that God had deserted him. Jesus’ physical, mental and spiritual suffering was so excruciatingly painful and agonisingly intense that even as a Christian author, I feel that any words I used would be totally inadequate to describe it.

God uses suffering.

When you suffer, it is extraordinarily comforting to know that our awesome God can and will bring good out of your suffering in various ways. Of course, the ultimate example of how God uses suffering is this: He used his perfect son’s suffering on the cross to save the whole world.

 God uses suffering:

  1. To see how genuine our faith is.
  2. To draw you closer to himself as you learn to depend on him.
  3. To give others the opportunity to be gracious towards you.

1. Testing our faith.

Suppose our faith is weak and flimsy when we experience unexpected suffering – a debilitating disease, losing a beloved family member, being axed from a job or retrenched. In that case, we are tempted to be like the seeds that the weeds choked up. We can’t stand the heat, so we’re angry with God or rant and rave against others for getting us into this mess. Our suffering has melted our faith, such as it was, into thin air.

On the other hand, if our faith is as strong as a rock, all these curved balls that have been thrown at us merely result in our personal growth: we trust God, we know that he will hear our prayers and that he will send other people from our Christian community to help us endure, encouraging us to persevere. Our suffering has solidified our Christian faith, making it stronger than ever.

2. Drawing us closer to him

But even if our faith is as small as a mustard seed, suffering can draw us closer to God. Who else will shield us, protect us, counsel us? Who else will hear us when we call to him, particularly when we are honest with him in our prayers? When we pour out our feelings before him as David did. If it was OK for Jesus to cry out, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? , then it is surely acceptable to present our deepest hurts, fears and pains to the Lord. He is guaranteed to answer us – not in our time. In his. And not necessarily in the way we want him to. But definitely according to his will in a way that will ultimately be for our good. Perhaps he is refining you with fire so that you can be more like Jesus.

3. Help from the Christian community

And what about the role of the Christian community in your suffering? How can they help you? Show love towards you? Be an example to others about how caring Christians are? Showing people how they’re attempting to model Jesus.

When I lost my husband, Robert, twenty-three years ago, it felt like my whole world had collapsed around me. It took a long time to work through my grief. But although I questioned why I was experiencing such deep sorrow, I didn’t walk away from God. I couldn’t. If anything, I ran towards him. He graciously provided me with a very special church community, allowing me to draw closer to him and encouraging me to depend on bible verses and prayers to get me through each day. And before I went to bed each night, I played our wedding chorus, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God’, obsessively on the piano. I had asked Joyce, who directed the church choir, for the sheet music. Little did I know what a blessing that would bring: my request prompted her to invite me into her choir. Practice night became the highlight of my week as we prepared to sing joyfully to the Lord on Sunday. Singing was a healing balm to my aching spirit. My painful bereavement also launched my career as a Christian author. Based on daily diary entries and frequent dips into the bible, my memoir, ‘Breath of God’, was born.

With God’s help, Gillian Leggat had re-invented herself as a Christian author. I didn’t know it then – my memoir was intended for me and my family, and was a therapeutic exercise to help me deal with my grief. But a few years later, I began to write Christian fiction in several different genres, including picture books, young adult fiction and adult novels.

My suffering had produced a creative crop. Which makes me reflect on that verse from Romans: And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love him. (Romans 8,28)

However severe your suffering, trust God to hold you in his powerful hands and walk you through it until you are safely on the other side. He will give meaning and purpose to your suffering, even if you can’t see it at the time. He is a faithful God who cares for you and always keeps his promises.

Breath of God by Gillian Leggat
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