Suffering, God is Faithful
At age sixty-four, Mary had a wonderful sense of humor, a contagious laugh, and mischievous eyes. She had survived breast cancer at age forty only to discover ovarian cancer eight years later. She knew more surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy, and hospital stays than anyone could count. Yet Mary lived passionately, laughed easily, and had no regrets when the doctors no longer knew what to expect. She kept on beating the odds—living—even with the pain and hardship of a terminal illness.
“I cry, I get angry, I get depressed, but eventually I give myself to God again and it becomes bearable,” she said when she knew the end was near. “There’ve been times of great physical pain, when I couldn’t sense God’s presence and felt abandoned—times when I wished I could die and get it over with. Still, there is something within, a spark, a connection that always kept me going. I believe that spark is the Lord. If I yield myself to Him daily, hourly, by the minute if necessary, God gives me the grace and strength to bear whatever comes along. He did not cause my suffering, but He is there to help me through.”
God’s people through the ages have known suffering and hardship. Abraham and Sarah, old and childless, gave up on God’s promise of a child, but then it happened. The people of Israel suffered as slaves until God acted to free them. Centuries later, the Babylonians overtook Israel, destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, and carried the Jews into exile. But God brought them home again. Jesus was rejected; he suffered and died. But again God acted, raising him from the dead.
And so it goes … God’s people suffer but are sustained by his powerful presence.
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.(Is. 43:1-3)
The apostle Paul confidently declares that no hardship can separate us “from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:35-39) In fact, Paul writes, “Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God,” and we can even say “that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:1-5)
Think of it! In our suffering and adversity, God is faithful. We can trust Him to see us through.
Mary’s long battle came to an end. As her pastor, I companioned her in the later years of her illness, and finally, her death. When the end came, she was at peace in the presence of a loving God who gave her grace, strength, and humor to endure. Mary taught me that our future is sure with God’s love poured into our hearts. Nothing will separate us from God’s love. Nothing.
Questions for discussion:
- What adversity or suffering have you experienced?
- How did you cope?
- How did your faith help?
- How were other people such as family, friends, or your community of faith, part of the help?