The Gift of Suffering

by The Rev. Rich Heinz

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, 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 5:1-5 ESV

The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." Job 1:21 ESV

Anakin Skywalker had a problem. Okay, so he had quite a few problems. But one thing that truly plagued him was a fear of suffering, death and separation. There had been no father in his life. At age nine he left his mother behind, in slavery, as he began a new life. When he returned, she had been captured and tortured, and it was too late; she died before his eyes. He was later tormented by dreams of his wife and unborn child dying – all the while being deceived and tempted by a prince of lies to curse the Light Side of the Force. And after he has lost everything, he goes into a rage and destroys the things around him as he screams in utter agony.

Job had a problem. Okay, so he had quite a few problems. He had one calamity after another, that would plunge most anyone into a terrible depression. The agony of losing all your possessions, having all your children die, and being subjected to sickness and sores, all at the same time – this would drive most people to a nervous breakdown. No one understood how Job could be steadfast in faith, receiving this as a gift from God. Even his wife urged him to “curse God and die!” Yet, he simply reflects on the goodness of God, and how the Lord even works through the most horrible events to bless and help and grow us. He responds: The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

The difference between the two, of course, (other than the fact that Anakin is fictional) is Christ. Anakin did not know Christ. He had faith in a power that could be manipulated and twisted into his own image. He believed that he could learn to have power over death, and in the midst of his own suffering, selfishly tried to regain control so that all things could serve his warped idea of what was good.

Job, on the other hand, had faith in the Christ to come. He was given to believe that the Lord would save him, would use all of these sufferings and hardships to work good in his life, and in the end would raise Job up from the dead to be with Him.

We can sit here, all puffed up, and say, “Of course Job has faith! We know Jesus is risen too. We can withstand the attacks of the devil.”

However, when actually faced with trauma and suffering – especially to that degree – most of us would be crushed. When the old evil foe prevails, we often slip into feeling sorry for ourselves, and begin to be masochists, taking pride that no one else can feel as bad as we do.

Anakin was crushed by his traumas and suffering. He fell into a terrible life of serving evil and causing others to suffer. Misery loves company. “If I have to feel this bad, then I’m bringing you down with me.”

We are more like Anakin than we care to admit. Old Adam – miserable. Our sinful flesh – inconsolable. Cries of “What did I do to deserve this?” and “Why is God picking on me?” surface to conscious thoughts. And we have our minds made up that not even timely articles written by our own Reverend Borghardt, the “Disaster Pastor” are going to be heard.

What is wrong with this picture? Everything! When Job had his “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day,” he did not pack up and move to Australia. He did not even curse God; he blessed the Lord: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."

Indeed, the Lord gives! When it comes down to it, even suffering is a gift. And boy! Is that ever hard to admit! Saint Paul reminds us: “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.”

Our dear Lord blesses you with suffering! How often do you stop and think of it that way? He gives suffering as a gift, so that He can give the gift of hope. And not just hope as in, “I hope my family can afford to go to Disney World!” or “I hope that there’s a cute guy or girl to meet at Higher Things!” No.

This hope is far more than a wish. It is not just a daydream, or something you would like someday.

This is the sure and certain hope that comes through Christ Jesus, who gives the sure and certain hope of life and salvation! This is the hope that boasts with King David: “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:7.) This is the hope of the hymnist: “Christ be my Leader…Darkness is daylight when Jesus is there.” “Christ be my Teacher…Doubt cannot daunt me; in Jesus I stand” “Christ be my Savior…Death cannot hold me, for He is the Life. Nor darkness, nor doubting, nor sin and its stain can touch my salvation: with Jesus I reign.”

Cursing God and dying is rejecting everything that He gives. But thanks be to God, you are not giving up and cursing Him. You don’t even need to wait twenty-some years to have your children save you from your unbelief.

The LORD of hosts is with us.” And “the Holy Spirit has called [you] by the Gospel, enlightened [you] with His Gifts, sanctified and kept [you] in the faith.”

In faith, you receive even the gifts of suffering, trusting that Jesus is providing the light, removing the doubt, and giving you life. So instead of cursing, you speak the word He gives you to say: “Amen!”

Amen! The Gift of suffering is received. So be it! Yes, yes, it shall be so.

Amen! The Gift of endurance remains. So be it! Yes, yes, it shall be so.

Amen! The Gift of character is given. So be it! Yes, yes, it shall be so.

Amen! The Gift of hope stands firm. So be it! Yes, yes, it shall be so.

The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." Amen!

 

Pastor Heinz is the Front Page Editor for the Higher Things website. He preached this sermon at Matins on Thursday of Amen - St. Louis. He also taught a sectional on the Office of the Holy Ministry at Amen.

 

Created: July 5th, 2008