The Right Response To Suffering

Peter recorded our right response to suffering through Jesus’ example. 1 Peter 2:21 says about suffering, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow in His steps.” Verse 22 says that He committed no sin, and there was no deceit in His mouth.”

I want to pause right here. Suffering comes in myriad forms. We cannot put it into one category. I was thinking about this last night. When I was younger, if I was asked how I was, my answer would be ‘fine’ because it was an easy cop out. It didn’t require any further explanation. Usually, I found that the person was just asking out of rote.

I began my healing journey in 1983. At that point I was learning how to forgive those who had hurt me. If someone asked me how I was, my reply would be that I was pressing into Jesus. If that opened a conversation, I could explain what I was wrestling with at that time. I’m bringing this up because it is so easy to hide behind cliches or facades. 

Psalm 15:2 is a great template for a right response in our suffering. It says, “He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart.” Maybe we could practice being open. The next time someone asks you how you are, you might like to open your heart a bit. Your reply could be something like this: I’m glad you asked. Do you have a minute? That will give them an out if they don’t. If they say ‘yes’ then you can begin. Yesterday I heard discouraging news. How do you handle discouragement? 

Our suffering is an opportunity to reach out in a deeper way. The Lord set that up for us. 2 Corinthians 1:3 says that He is the God of all comfort. Verse 4 is the established pattern that He designed and desires. It says, “Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

We can also begin a conversation with: is there a specific way I could pray for you today? That would be an enactment of Galatians 6:2 to bear one another’s burdens. Prayer is coming alongside someone. It is partnering with them in their suffering. It gives us an opportunity to ask and receive.

So much verbal exchange is surface. It is the way of the world. There is no depth because it is not a heart to heart conversation. I have friends whose love language is quality time. That is mine as well, so our conversations are not surface or superficial. We bypassed that stage long ago.

Paul admonished the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 6:11 he told them, “…our heart is wide open.” Then he disclosed their hearts. Verse 12 says, “You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections.” When we keep our emotional pain buried, we lose out on God’s way to rightly respond to our suffering.

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