What do you lean on when the pain won’t go away? What do you do when you can’t help the pain go away for someone you love? What do you do when suffering seems to saturate your life, seeping into every circumstance?
Six years into my wife’s struggle with brutal and sometimes crippling chronic pain, I’m still surprised by how often I find myself grasping for promises and hope because I’m suddenly (sometimes without warning) shaken and disoriented by the sorrow and frustration I feel.
Often God meets us and sustains our brokenhearted faith, and even helps us “rejoice in our sufferings,” knowing it produces a tested, genuine, and precious faith (Romans 5:3–4; James 1:2–4). But the reality remains that pain changes things, and pain that doesn’t go away has a persistent stealth to sneak up and bite us with the poisoned fangs of doubt, depression, anger, and uncertainty.
Frail, Fleshly Feelings
I have learned at least one thing when I find my soul and my wife’s countenance swerving from faith into the ditch of despair: We cannot simply rely on our feelings to tell us the truth about our suffering.
“We cannot simply rely on our feelings to tell us the truth about our suffering.”
Satan roams about trying to destroy faith (1 Peter 5:8). And he knows our fleshly tendency to doubt that God really cares for us, and to want comfort and ease more than Jesus.
In these moments, if my faith in God were dependent on feelings, the battle would be lost. Still less would I trust my own willpower to cling to the beauty of Christ in these times — the pain is too real to block out with mere mental effort. Our feelings and our own power are weak defenses against the pain of this world, but Christians are never without a source of hope. God has given us tailor-made promises to cut through the weary emotions of our weak flesh and the lies of the devil.
Light in the Dark Sky
Recently, at another appointment, I was praying for healing. I also was praying for God to help steady our souls so that if healing didn’t come, we could still rejoice in Jesus and live in a way that pointed to his worth.
I found myself tempted to believe the subtle lie that God was really not in this with us completely. And I was tempted to believe that earthly comfort and health are worth more than the treasure of Jesus. Satan was prowling, and my flesh was weak and tired. In that moment, God was sweet to provide me with ammunition from Romans 8:32 to shoot through the soul-numbing despair that was coming on from believing those false statements.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
These verses struck my heart with brilliance like a dark sky illumined by a flash of lightning and with the power of the thunder that follows. Here, in these few words, was the proof of God’s presence in our pain and the proof that he was caring for our ultimate good, even if the temporal prospects didn’t feel good in that moment.
Earlier in this passage, we read that God works “all things” for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). What’s more, Paul goes on to say that God works it all for “good” in that he uses everything to conform us to Christ’s image, and ultimately to bring us together with Christ in glorification (Romans 8:29–30).
“Our hope is not that God will remove all bad things for our good, but that he will work them for our good.”
God will be faithful to work all things for our ultimate good — he weaves all things together to conform us to Christ and bring us to glory. It doesn’t say God will make life easier in this age or remove our trials. In fact, Romans 8, one of the most triumphant, hopeful chapters in the Bible, is filled with words like suffering, groaning, longing, weakness, and futility to describe the broken world we live in. God will work all those things for our good, not remove those things for our good. In fact, we must suffer with Christ (Romans 8:17).
Two Lies Satan Whispers
There are two common lies that Satan speaks to those who are suffering. The promises of Romans 8 reveal these lies as false and provide the hope to find true joy in our pain.
1. God doesn’t care about your suffering.
To combat the lie that God does not really care, the Bible says that God graciously gives us all things we need to make it to glory. See the beauty of Paul’s argument: If God already did not keep back his Son from us, but gave him up as the sacrifice to save us from our sins, how can you imagine that he will hold back from us anything else that we need?
He’s already given up the costliest thing — he’s not going to stop there and abandon the work he’s done in giving up his Son. God’s concern and care is cemented in the reality that he’s already given us his Son.
2. You need comfort more than anything.
To combat the lie that comfort or ease is what we need most, we don’t need to look any further than the cross. God did not spare his own Son from suffering. And God loved his Son with an infinite love. Jesus had to learn obedience through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8). In the same way, when we suffer, God has not abandoned us. God is helping us learn obedience. God is stripping away all that would compete for our affections and our allegiances as the supreme treasure of our souls.
“God’s concern and care in our suffering is cemented in the reality that he’s already given us his Son.”
The Christian life is about counting all else as loss compared to the worth of Christ Jesus, and God will give us all things we need, including suffering, to make sure that happens. And he promises us that, because he has already given up his own Son, nothing will separate us from his love (Romans 8:38–39).
God Cares About Your Suffering
When your life is saturated with suffering, and despair and doubt whisper in your ear, remember that Christ intimately knows your suffering and the Father deeply cares for your ultimate good. He will graciously give you all things you need. The proof is not in your emotions or feelings at the time or in how big your faith feels; the proof of God’s presence in your pain is Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Rest in his suffering to stifle the lies that seek to strangle your faith in your suffering. You can rest assured he will graciously give you all things you need — because he’s already given you Jesus.