Where I live it is hurricane season. And like anyone familiar with the Atlantic or Caribbean knows, it’s important to be prepared for a hurricane. Every summer we stock up on supplies of batteries, water, canned goods, and other necessities. We make sure to keep our tree limbs trimmed. We map out where we will go in the case of an evacuation.
For many who live near the coast though, we can get lax in our preparations. When it’s been a few years since the threat of a storm, we let our stock of supplies go. Though the meteorologist warns us every year to be prepared, too often we prefer to wait until there actually is a storm churning out on the horizon.
That’s what happened the year I was nine months pregnant and two category-three storms hit our coastal town. The stores were crowded with people buying food and water. I scrambled to figure out where to go and what to take with me. The lines at the gas stations were long. And after the storm, when everyone was without power for weeks, the realities of the need for storm readiness hit hard.
The Storms of Life
It seems like common sense to prepare ahead of time for a hurricane, tornado, or blizzard. How about the storms of life? Should we prepare in advance for periods of trial and suffering?
I believe that it is important to prepare our minds and hearts for the inevitable trials of life. Without a theological foundation in place for how to face such storms, we are at greater risk for being blown over by the fierce winds of suffering when they arrive.
What does it mean to have a theological foundation? It means having a theology of suffering: knowing what we believe and why about God, his sovereignty, and the hardships we experience in this world.
Developing a Theology of Suffering
So how do we develop a theology of suffering? What are some practical ways we can prepare for the storms of life? Here are four simple ways, like gathering hurricane supplies, that we can prepare for the storms of tomorrow.
Study the Word. We need to study what the Bible says about trials and suffering. Why do they exist? How should we respond? How does God use suffering in our lives? We also need to study what Scripture teaches about God, who he is, and his character. It makes a big difference whether we believe God is out to get us or whether we believe that he is holy, righteous, and good in all that he does.
Affirm God’s sovereignty. What we believe about God’s sovereignty plays a significant role in how we face suffering. Do we believe that he is in absolute control over everything that happens? Do we trust that he will use all things, even our suffering, for our good and his glory? How can we trust in and find hope in his sovereignty?
Memorize Scripture. We need to learn and memorize verses that point to the truth about suffering and the trials of life. We can memorize passages on God’s promises toward us, the hope we have in Christ, and how God uses suffering in our lives for our transformation and his glory. There are several important verses in Romans 8, such as Romans 8:18, 28–30, 35–39.
Pray. We need to develop an active prayer life. During the calm seasons of life, we need to grow in prayer and learn to turn to God for all things. The more we trust and rely on God in prayer, the more we will utilize prayer during the trials of life. In a crisis, we tend to do things by instinct. Prayer should be instinctual, like breathing.
It was ten years ago that I delivered my first child after a hurricane blew through our town. It was a frightening time that is hard to forget. Facing the storms of life unprepared is frightening as well. It’s in the times of peace and calm that we need to develop a theology of suffering by steeping ourselves in Scripture and praying through hard questions. And we need to pray for a faith that faces the devastation that storms of life leave behind, a faith that can say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”