“Through history,” writes Mark Clark, “virtually every society has sought to teach people how to deal with pain and suffering. Sadly, our current culture has largely neglected this task. Why? Because for generations we’ve embraced a secular worldview that assumes that the material world is all there is, and that, thus, pain has no meaningful part to play in life.”*
But we can learn from previous generations. They had to deal with horrific suffering including wars, plagues, early death and frequent illness, and they had to do it without modern hospitals or medicine.
In the 17th century Richard Baxter spoke about how suffering can make us more receptive to God: “Though the word and Spirit do the main work, yet suffering so unbolts the door of our heart, that the word hath easier entrance.”**
Very true. How many times have we cried out to God, turned from wrong ways, pleaded for his help, sought his wisdom, and re-pledged to walk in his footsteps, than when we were going through a hardship so severe that it brought us to our knees and made clear the realization that we cannot fix our problems on our own?
Consider Romans 5:3-4: “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Hardship isn’t nice. I don’t like it. And I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
But when it happens, we are wise to be honest about our struggles and reach out for help—to trusted friends and family members, and especially to God.
Throughout it all we can ponder and trust how we are being refined, shaped and strengthened in the process.
–*As quoted in: Mark Clark, The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to Christianity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017), 121-22.
–**Richard Baxter, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (London: The Religious Tract Society), 198.