No one, in their right mind, wants to suffer. Yet, all people experience suffering in their lives at some point. If you have not yet experienced suffering, just give yourself time. In a fallen world, suffering is inevitable.
The Bible says something very counterintuitive about suffering. It says the Christian can rejoice in suffering. “Through [Christ] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:2–5 ESV)
The Bible does not say that we rejoice despite our sufferings. Stoicism says that. A grin-and-bear-it mentality communicates that. Atheism driven to its logical end takes us there. But the Bible says the Christian rejoices “in” suffering. The Christian understands that God can use even our worst moments in life for our good.
Because the Christian has a sure, certain, and unshakable hope, the Christian knows that a place where all suffering ceases and all wrongs are righted awaits them. Knowing that our suffering in this world will not last forever, helps the Christian endure. This endurance produces character, such as patience and compassion.
I remember years ago watching a documentary about Karate. Doctors, apparently, have researched how people proficient in Karate can chop through several boards of wood with a chop of the hand. When these karate wood choppers start out, they start with only one or two boards. These easier chops create microfractures in their hands, which heal stronger. Over time, because of this microfracture-then-heal cycle, they can chop through many boards.
For the Christian, suffering breaks our unhealthy attachments to this world, allowing us to come out of suffering better than if we had not gone through it. The residual pain may remain – waiting to be healed in heaven – but we can walk out of pain more mature people.
This awareness of what the Lord can do with our suffering gives us hope, because we see how the Lord can use even suffering to mold us and shape us for our heavenly home.
If you are suffering today, do not grin-and-bear it like the stoic. Be honest about your pain. Take it to the Lord, and allow him to use it to make you better rather than bitter.