Here’s a great word on suffering from my dear friend, Larry Rogier (who, alas, is no stranger to suffering). He responds to C. J. Mahaney’s chapter on suffering in Living the Cross Centered Life. Small world: I just reviewed that chapter Wednesday morning in a men’s discipleship group, and we’re studying “Suffering and Sovereignty” in our midweek Bible studies all summer. Anyway, I cross post it here with Larry’s permission, but ask that you comment on it at his place. Thanks, Larry!
The Cross and Suffering
In our time of deepest affliction, none of us find comfort by endlessly focusing on that suffering. There’s an element of mystery in all our suffering, and in this life we can’t fully understand it, yet we face a subtle temptation to relive and review our suffering. That’s an exercise that will never bring rest and release. What will bring rest and release is spending more time meditating on the cross and the God of the cross (C. J. Mahaney, Living the Cross-Centered Life, p. 98).
I disagree. Mahaney is wrong.
There is nothing subtle about the temptation to relive and review our suffering. It is an in-your-face temptation that screams loudly because it addresses you at your greatest point—the self-pity that drives you to focus on how your are unjustly suffering.
Other than that, Mahaney is dead on.
You will never relieve suffering by reliving suffering.
Reliving it brings some strange perverted sense of comfort. Why? I have no idea, other than the face that it allows us to focus on the most important thing in our lives—us. But I know that in the midst of suffering (spiritual, emotional, or physical), there is comfort in dwelling on it, reliving it, and talking about it.
But it doesn’t really help.
Focusing on the cross puts our suffering in perspective. Whatever you are suffering is nothing compared to what Jesus suffered on the cross. And whatever you are suffering will not separate you from the love of God. Furthermore, whatever you are suffering is part of God’s plan to mature you and prepare you for his service, both now and in eternity.
So in the midst of suffering, think about the cross. Remind yourself that God loves you and sent his Son for you, and having sent his Son, he will not now abandon you, neither to a life of ease or a life of suffering.
He who did not spare His own Son,
but delivered Him over for us all,
how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?