My sister is in constant pain from a car accident she was in 12 years ago. The pain ranges between a 7-10 on a pain chart. Many times her pain is at “suicidal levels”. She was a Christin before this happened, but after about 7 years, she gave up her faith. I wasn’t around at that time and didn’t know what was going on (spiritually). I am with her now, and feel she wants to give God another chance, but she is angry and wants some answers. She feels God has abandoned her. How can I minister to her?
Of course there is not “pat” answer to this question and after I present some of my own thoughts, I’m going to ask THE READERS of my daily email to go to the message forum and post some encouragement and ideas of their.
While we may be answering one question from one person, this is a topic that is universal, and all of us for the most part will endure times of suffering.
If she is open to spiritual matters, or is seeking comfort, wondering if there is more to life than her suffering, then of course the Bible has that comfort.
IF IT WERE ME (and I don’t claim to know the “perfect” way, I can only give you my most sincere and best suggestion), I would talk with her and say:
“I’m not going to try and tell you I understand what you are going through. I’m also not going to give you a bunch of clichés and nice Bible verses then walk away from you and let you suffer. However, I do know that of all the people that have ever existed, Jesus knows what it means to suffer. And, the Bible has much to say about suffering, and stories of others who suffer. I would like to start talking to you about these things, and I truly believe that you will find comfort and hope in God if you’ll open your heart to Him.”
Here are some suggestions of things to discuss:
- Jesus understands her pain – Acts 17:3; Heb 14:5
- God has not abandoned her – Heb 13:5
- Her pain is temporary – 2Cor 4:17
- Her pain is momentary compared to eternity – James 4:14
- For Christians, God gives grace and strength in times of suffering – 2Cor 12:9
- We can learn from the Bible about God’s chosen servants who have suffering – Job, Moses, Joseph, David, Paul and of course, Jesus
For Christians, pain has purpose and reward – reference the list below that is true FOR CHRISTIANS. Help her to understand that apart from God, suffering is just suffering. No hope, no purpose, no blessing, no eternal reward, nothing good comes from it. BUT IN CHRIST, suffering has purpose, hope and reward.
Apart from God, suffering is just suffering.
In Christ, suffering is a blessing.
Only Christians can understand that. To the unsaved, it is nonsense. For Christians that purpose is:
- To produce the fruit of patience Rom. 5:3; James 1:3-4; Heb. 10:36
- Through adversity Christians learn the blessing of long-suffering and delayed gratification.
- To produce the fruit of joy Ps. 30:5; 126:5-6
- It is easy to be joyful when times are good but you have authentic rejoicing when you experience it through suffering.
- To produce the fruit of maturity Eccles. 7:3; 1 Pet. 5:10
- Through affliction we discover the true reality of living in a sin cursed world. When we endure suffering with the attitude of Jesus Christ we are perfected, established and strengthened.
- To produce the fruit of righteousness Heb. 12:11
- Adversity, when responded to according to God’s word, will train us to be righteous and holy.
- To silence the devil Job 1:9, 10, 20-22
- God permits suffering and when we respond to it in a Christlike manner the accusations of Satan against us will be in vain.
- To teach us Ps. 119:67, 71
- The more we suffer the more God’s word becomes real to us and the less we will stray from obeying the Lord. It then becomes a good thing that we have suffered because it has resulted in increased Godliness.
- To purify our lives Job 23:10; Ps. 66:10-12; Isa. 1:25; 48:10; Prov. 17:3; 1 Pet. 1:7
- God tests, strengthens and purifies us through affliction. Our faith is much more precious than anything the world can offer and like pure gold it is refined in the fires of suffering.
- To make us like Christ Heb. 12:9, 10; 1 Pet. 4:12-13; Phil. 3:10; 2 Cor. 4:7-10
- As we suffer, we come to understand and better relate to the suffering that Jesus endured on our behalf. Through persecution and affliction we are conformed into the image of Christ manifesting through our bodies a living example of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
- To glorify God Ps. 50:15; John 9:1-3; 11:1-4; 21:18-19; Phil. 1:19-20
- Every time we respond to suffering with a Godly attitude, we bring glory to God in such an unselfish manner that it directs attention solely to God, and not to us.
- To prevent us from sinning 2 Cor. 12:7, 9-10
- God may permit us to suffer in order to keep us humble and to keep us from the sin of self-exaltation.
- To make us confess when we do sin Judg. 10:6-7, 15-16; Ps. 32:3-5; Hos. 5:15; 6:1; 2 Chron. 15:3-4
- There will be times when God uses suffering to force us to confront our sin and confess it. Enduring the effects of a sin cursed world heightens our awareness of sin and deepens our understanding of just how truly awful sin really is.
- To chasten us for our sin 1 Pet. 4:17
- Suffering may often times be a direct result of our own personal sin and God may be chastising us for it. Adversity motivates us to carefully examine our lives for holiness and devotion.
- To prove our sonship Heb. 12:5-6
- Adversity is like an identification badge for the Christian. Scripture clearly says, “that whom the Lord loves He chastens”. So any time that you suffer you can be sure of two things: that you belong to the Lord, and that He loves you.
- To reveal ourselves to ourselves Job 42:6; Luke 15:18
- When the pressure is on you can be sure that what is deep down inside of a person will come boiling to the top. When you squeeze a lemon, you get lemon juice. There is no way to fake what you are truly all about when you are under great stress or enduring significant adversity. You can be sure that what you are genuinely made of will surface not only for you to see but also for everyone around you to see.
- To help our prayer life Isa. 26:16
- There is no doubt that affliction helps our prayer life. For most people greater suffering equals greater prayer.
- To become an example to others 2 Cor. 6:4-5; 1 Thess. 1:6-7
- When we respond to adversity in a Godly manner it provides a living example for all those who observe us.
- To qualify us as counselors Rom. 12:15; Gal. 6:2; 2 Cor. 1:3-5
- There is nothing like real-life experience to qualify you as a teacher. It is an academic exercise at best to proclaim truths that you have not lived and experienced.
- To further the gospel witness Acts 8:1-5; 16:25-34; Phil. 1:12-13; 2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-17
- By enduring suffering with a Godly attitude we participate in validating the power of the Gospel. When another person sees you rejoicing in the midst of affliction they can’t help but wonder where you derive the power for such a response.
- To make us more than conquerors 2 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:35, 37
- As God proves faithful to see us through adversity we become more and more confident about the things of God. We become increasingly victorious over sin and “more than conquerors”.
- To give us insight into God’s nature Job 42:5; Rom. 8:14-15, 18
- Through suffering we know more about God and His purposes. We better understand His attributes, His nature and His sovereignty.
- To drive us closer to God 1 Pet. 4:14; 2 Cor. 12:10
- Whether we have actively strayed from God or are just in the sanctifying process of growing closer to him, suffering is an important means to push us and turn us towards God.
- To prepare us for a greater ministry 1 Kings 17-18; John 12:24
- Like the potter’s clay that is worked and reworked, or the lump of dough that is kneaded until soft and blended, affliction breaks us down, makes us soft and prepares us to be used by the Lord.
- To provide for us a reward Matt. 5:10-12; 19:27-29; Rom. 8:16-17; 2 Cor. 4:17
- It is a wondrous truth that God permits us to suffer for His glory and yet it turns out to be an incredible blessing for us, not only in this lifetime, but also through the eternal reward we will receive in Heaven.
- To prepare us for the kingdom 2 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:12
- Suffering prepares us for our eternal life with God. It conditions us, trains us and equips us to reign with Christ forever and ever.
- To show God’s sovereignty Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 10:13; Ps. 66:10-12; Gen. 45:5-8; 50:20
- The suffering Christian is a tangible demonstration of God’s sovereignty, who in His infinite wisdom can take all things (good and bad) and work them together for His ultimate glory and eternal purpose.
Suffering drives us to God. Your sister is a living example of God’s PURE love for us, even in her suffering. Why? Because God will do WHATEVER is necessary to draw us to Him, even if it takes suffering. He would rather have us suffer for a short time here in this life, than be lost for eternity in suffering that is infinitely worse and never ending. God loves us so much, that He will do what is painful in our lives NOW in order to secure ETERNITY for us with Him.
Through this suffering, perhaps God knew that only this would draw your sister into a genuine and eternal relationship with Him. Nevertheless, she has two choices: 1) suffer bitterly and die without hope, purpose or secure her eternity in heaven, or 2) turn to God now for grace, strength, comfort and the HOPE that when this life of suffering is over, she will have an entire Eternity of blessing, perfection and NO PAIN.
Readers, help me out with this one… lots of people are suffering. Let’s load up the message forum with stories of hope, encouragement and Biblical encouragement. Go here to the message forum…