Why Must We Suffer?

Friday, March 11, 2016, 8:15 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Open My Heart.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read John 5:1-15 (ESV).

Jesus our Healer (vv. 1-9a)

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

When Jesus Christ walked the face of this earth as fully God, yet fully man, he healed the sick and afflicted, raised the dead, cast out demons, comforted the sorrowful, and forgave sins. It seemed that anyone who came to him for healing was healed. He even healed those who did not come to him for healing, such as this man.

Now, this man wanted to be healed, it would appear, as he was there by the pool for a long time, apparently hoping someone would put him in the pool. Jesus saw this, but he still asked him if he wanted to be healed, though I am sure Jesus already knew the answer to that question. By the man’s response, it was clear to Jesus that he, indeed, wanted healing, so Jesus healed him. Yet, there was no particular formula Jesus followed for healing people. For instance, the man who was born blind did not request healing. Jesus just healed him, although the man did have to follow Jesus’ instructions to go wash, which he did.

Sometimes other people requested healing for someone they loved, and Jesus healed them. He didn’t always heal in person, either. Sometimes he just spoke a word and the person was healed, although the person making the request did not immediately know the healing had taken place, because the person who was healed was some distance away, and they had no way to instantly get that information as we do today via telephones and the internet.

When I read these stories of Jesus’ healing of people, though, it brings several questions to mind. Since Jesus Christ, God the Son, is our creator, and he is completely sovereign and in control over all things, does he sometimes allow sickness and afflictions for his purposes? Does he always heal when people request healing? Does he ever delay healing for his purposes? And, does he heal in more than one way? Basically, does God allow suffering and, if so, why does he? And, does he always heal those who call on him for healing?

I will first of all note that I believe Jesus is our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King. He is my great physician. He has healed me spiritually, physically and emotionally on more than one occasion. So, I am a firm believer in divine healing, and in praying for healing. Too many people, including Christians, run to doctors and to prescription drugs for their healing before they even pray and ask God to heal them. The Lord told me several years ago to trust him with my healing, and to stop taking prescription and over-the-counter drugs, so I did that. And, I trust him to take care of me. Yet, that does not mean I never get sick, or that I never suffer. I do. But, I trust him through my suffering, and I believe him still for healing, and for the strength to make it through every day, by his grace.

When God Doesn’t Heal

If we thoroughly study the scriptures, we will see that God/Jesus is in the business of healing. I believe that Jesus never turns away a repentant sinner from his divine grace in the healing of his sin-sick soul, because that person would not even come to Jesus had the Father not first drawn him (or her) to the Savior. I also believe that God will always offer his comfort, encouragement, hope and emotional healing to his suffering servants. He may not remove them from their difficult circumstances, but he will strengthen them through them. He will never leave them or forsake them, but he will empower them to endure. Yet, although I believe scripture teaches divine healing for physical ailments, I also see that there are exceptions to that rule, and that God also allows human suffering for his purposes, and in fact he says we, as his followers, are destined for trials and tribulations.

To begin with, sickness, afflictions and suffering are part of the curse of sin which came upon all human beings due to the fall of Adam. So, as long as we live in these flesh bodies, we are subject to pain, suffering, sickness and afflictions. Also, scripture teaches that suffering produces endurance, character and hope. We will face trials, even fiery ones, in order to test us. Yet, we are to count it all joy when we face trials of various kinds, for the testing of our faith produces steadfastness, in order that we may become mature and complete. And, when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, we may have to go through many difficulties which may result in sickness, injuries, and physical weakness and pain, such as Jesus went through when he was beaten and hung on a cross to die.

God also allows suffering in our lives so that we may comfort others with the comfort we ourselves received from God during our afflictions. And, God allows us to suffer affliction, too, so that we learn to rely on him and not on ourselves. In addition to all this, God allows his children to endure suffering as a means of disciplining us, in order that we may share in his holiness. When we are being trained by such discipline, “afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (See: Heb. 12:1-12). Further, Paul was given a thorn in the flesh, which was a messenger of Satan, given by God to torment him, in order to keep him humble, because of all the revelations given him by God. He pleaded with the Lord three times for God to take it away, but God’s response to Paul was that God’s grace was sufficient for him, for God’s “power is made perfect in weakness.” Thus, Paul concluded, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Co. 12:7-10).

I believe we should always pray for healing, and that we should trust the Lord to be our great physician, and that we should inquire of the Lord as to what he wants us to do in any given situation. Again, I believe too many people run to doctors and drugs and surgeries instead of going to God for healing. Americans are particularly bad about this. Apparently Americans consume as much as 80% of the world’s pain pills, according to one article I read. And, it is because Americans are afraid to suffer. And, doctors are all too ready to just hand out pills for just about everything. And, if a pill has side effects that are troublesome, they just prescribe another pill, and on and on it goes, so that many people are consumed with feeling as though they must take pills to survive. We need to not be so afraid of suffering, and we need to learn to trust the Lord to bring us through our times of pain.

Yet, I also believe suffering is a necessary part of our lives in order to mature us in Christ, teach us perseverance, develop godly character within us, draw us closer to our Lord, teach us to rely on God and not on ourselves (or other humans), give us compassion for the hurting, humble us, that we may share in Christ’s holiness, and that it might produce the fruit of righteousness in our lives. Although God has healed me many times, he has also allowed me to suffer, too, and has sometimes given me the same message he gave Paul. So, don’t be afraid of suffering, but trust God with your life and with your difficult circumstances. Pray for healing, but be willing to accept “my grace is sufficient for you,” and believe God has a good purpose in allowing the pain and suffering, and that he will bring good out of it in your life, and in the lives of people whose lives you touch.

Sin No More (vv. 9b-15)

Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.

It is possible, as well, that our suffering can be a result of sin in our lives, not just the result of original sin and sin’s curse on all mankind. Jesus told the man he had healed to “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” This sounds to me like Jesus is either indicating that the man’s sin is what caused his affliction in the first place, and/or that if he sinned further, he may end up with something worse than he had before. God’s discipline on our lives, as well, may be for the purpose to correct some unrepentant sin in our lives, so that we will repent, and so we will get back on track with God in walking in his holiness, if we have drifted from our pure devotion to him. So, if you are going through a time of personal sickness or suffering, and you have prayed for healing, but the healing has not come, it may be that there is sin in your life which the Lord wants gone, and that you have not been listening, and so he will send suffering as a way of getting your attention.

So, when you are sick, afflicted, in pain, and/or you are suffering affliction of any kind, call on God/Jesus in prayer, confess any known sin in your life, turn from it, and turn to walk in obedience to your Lord. Walk in holiness, and do not give the devil a foothold in your life. Then, pray for healing. If healing does not come, ask the Lord what he wants to do in your life. He will direct you in the way you should go. He may say that the timing is not right, or he may tell you his grace is sufficient for you, or he may heal you on the spot when you persist in prayer for his healing touch. I believe scripture teaches all these possibilities. But, whatever the outcome, do not be afraid of what may come your way. Trust in your Lord through it all, listen to what he says, and follow his lead. He may have something much greater in mind for you than physical healing. He may use your ailment as an instrument of mercy in the lives of many, many people, in order to reach them for Jesus. So, believe him. Listen to him. Obey him. And, then rest in him, and accept whatever he has for you.

Open My Heart / An Original Work / July 2, 2013
“Be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil” (Rm. 16:19b).

Open my heart. Let Your truth in.
Make of me a servant, pure within;
Sing of Your praise all of my days.
Let Your Spirit transform all my ways.
Jesus Christ died on a cross to
Save me from my sin.
“Repent of sin. Be cleansed within.
Obey all of His commands today.”

“Why do you doubt? Why do you fear?
Jesus Christ will wipe away your tears.
He cares for you. He feels your pain.
Die to sin, and life with Him you’ll gain.
Follow Him where’er He leads you.
Talk with Him each day.
Then you will know what He has planned
For your life before your world began.”

“Come unto Me, weary in heart.
Let My love and grace to you impart.
Believe in Me. Trust in My care.
Take your burdens to the Lord in prayer.
He will meet all of your needs,
And give you peace within.
Rejoice in Him! Tell of His love.
He will give you comfort from above.”