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  • Writer's pictureBeth Hildebrand

When Suffering Comes Upon Us

God’s peace will be shown by how we deal with the sufferings that will come upon us.”[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer

That will come upon us? How about has come upon us. And I can only question that when I think about refugees from Ukraine, those living in the increased violence and corruption in Haiti, the countless individuals who are used and victims of sex trafficking asking that question.

That’s just the first three sufferers that came to my mind. But everyone who has ever, is currently, and will ever live and breathe on this earth will experience a time when “suffering comes upon us.” It will be different for each person. Yes, becoming a refugee due to war, but suffering also includes, and can be no less than, addictions, mental health, physical health, learning abilities, mourning the loss of a loved one, a divorce, or loneliness to name a few.

So, why? Well, it goes all the way back to Adam and Eve and the decision they made to choose disobedience and sin over respect and love for the God who created them and us. Yet, we still ask today, “If God loves me, why do I have to suffer?”

That’s a difficult question to answer, but during this season of Lent, the 40 days prior to Easter, I’m learning a little more about why.

Paul wrote in Romans 5:3, “we celebrate in seasons of suffering”. Paul is not saying following Jesus is all pain and despair. That’s far from it. But, when our relationship with Jesus deepens, we begin to see suffering from a different perspective. With different eyes.

Bonhoeffer continues to explain how we must accept, even love, the tribulations we have. We must love the cross that Jesus died on to save us. We can easily say, “I hate the cross and what it did to Jesus!” But pause a moment and really think about that. If we hate the cross, then we hate what Jesus did for us on the cross. If we don’t feel peace when suffering, we should step back and contemplate our actions or reactions.

“Those who acknowledge that they view suffering and tribulation in their own lives only as something hostile and evil can see from this very fact that they have not at all found peace with God. They have basically merely sought peace with the world, believing possibly that by means of the cross of Jesus Christ they might best come to terms with themselves and with all their questions, and thus find inner peace of the soul. They have used the cross, but not loved it. They have sought peace for their own sake. But when tribulation comes, that peace quickly flees them. It was not peace with God, for they hated the tribulation.”

In other words, if people hate distress, struggles, and suffering, and try everything they can to avoid them, then deep down, even if not realizing it, they are hating the cross and not experiencing true peace with God.

That convicted me.

It’s not easy to love struggles and suffering. True love is unconditional, a commitment, faithful, steadfast, sacrificial, and an act of obedience. Love isn’t always easy but it’s worth doing and being.

It’s easy for us to see struggles and sufferings as ugly, unwanted, rejected, and hated, but those actions and emotions are towards the cross of Jesus. That is hating what Jesus did for us on the cross. Instead, let us see our struggles, our tribulations, as part of a masterpiece – a chapter in a story, a section of a painting, or a note in a song that doesn’t seem beautiful by itself. But God uses them to write a book you can’t put down, a painting you can’t take your eyes off, or a song you listen to over and over.

In the here and now, it can be hard to see the full work of art, but one day we will look face to face with our Creator and see how we were made in His image. We’ll be able to see the complete masterpiece the Artist created – a breathtakingly beautiful masterpiece.

Lord, You are the Artist, the Creator, who forms masterpieces from dust and You see us as your masterpieces. Please forgive us when we’ve disliked – even hated – struggling. Help us to rejoice in our suffering and see our tribulations as part of a beautiful work of Your art, a masterpiece to behold. Amen.

{to see the full masterpiece of the image at the top of this post, look here.}

[1] Bread and Wine

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