Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 14 - December 2006 / January 2007 > Pastor's Piece - The Trials and Suffering of Life

Pastor's Piece - The Trials and Suffering of Life

by Dr Barry Wright

It has been often said that 'Nothing can soften the human heart, enrich a person's life, and make him or her more compassionate than sorrow and suffering' (Innes, 1992: 9).

At some time during our lives grief will come to us all. Many will face the loss of a loved one through death. There may be the trauma of unemployment that, for some, may rank equally with the stress caused by serious illness, injury or divorce (Ibid).

When sorrow and trauma do strike, it is never easy, and the question of how to cope will always arise.

The following text of Scripture may provide some insight into this issue and it is here that the apostle James outlines for us what our attitude should be to these difficult times. He says:

'Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything' (James 1: 2-4, NIV).

In other words, when your faith in God is tested and survives, it will be stronger than before. So don't be afraid to let your faith be tested, because as it survives and matures, you will mature as well and be ready to face other trials that will come along. James' faith-building system in subsequent verses suggests that trials lead to patience, patience to the perfecting of faith so that the faithful one lacks nothing. This is why he makes the strong claim in this verse that we should count trials as joy.

How should we respond?

While we may cope by seeking social support from family and friends, throw ourselves into our work or volunteer our time that may give a feeling of worth and fulfilment, we must learn to trust in God.

The thing that amazed non-believers during the centuries of persecution in times past was that many of the martyrs did not die grimly but died singing showing their complete trust in the God of heaven. It is this deep abiding trust that becomes the basis of how we deal with adversity.

Hebrews 12: 11 (TLB) recognises that trials are not enjoyable experiences. It says that 'Being punished isn't enjoyable while it is happening-it hurts.' But then it goes on to say, 'But afterwards we can see the result, a quiet growth in grace and character.'

This experience of God's comfort during our own trials should then enable us to more openly comfort others in their discouraging times. The apostle Paul in 2 Cor 1: 3, 4 (NEB) praises God because He says: 'He comforts us in all our troubles. So that we in turn may be able to comfort others in any trouble of theirs and to share with them the consolation we ourselves receive from God.'

When God created man He never intended that adversity be necessary for the development of a righteous character. However, after the fall, the curses pronounced upon the ground, once accepted in the right spirit, were designed to be a blessing. Sometimes life's most trying experiences can lead to the germination of righteousness and often become the source of our greatest blessings.

The experiences of Manasseh and Samson as recorded in the Scriptures illustrate this very well.

2 Chron 33: 10-13 (TEV) tells us that Manasseh, 'In his suffering…became humble, turned to the Lord his God, and begged Him for help. God accepted Manasseh's prayer.'

Manasseh, who was the son of Hezekiah, failed to learn the lessons of true dependence and obedience during those opportune times of national prosperity. But under the harsh treatment he was later to receive from his Assyrian captors, the knowledge of God, which had lain dormant for nearly a lifetime, germinated and finally produced the fruits of righteousness in his life.

Samson's experience was to be very similar. Born to deliver his people from Philistine oppression, he failed to develop the kind of dependence on God that should have characterized his life. Yet, through adversity that saw him being deprived of his great strength, his liberty and his eyesight, he was eventually to recognise God as the source of all power (Judges 16: 21-28; Heb 11: 32, 33).

Authors Don and Vesta Mansell in their devotional book 'Sure as the Dawn' ask us to always remember that beyond the shadows that oft time seem so ominous we find the 'Light of the World' nearby. Simply because clouds blot out the light of the sun does not mean that the sun isn't shining beyond them (Mansell & Mansell, 1993: 160).

No matter what happens to us in life, it is important to understand that God knows and cares. He wants us to allow our pain to bring us closer to Him and learn to trust Him regardless of our circumstances. When we do this, we can be certain that God will use these experiences to enrich our lives and make us 'mature and complete, not lacking anything.'



Bible Versions:

NIV - New International Version
TLB - The Living Bible
NEB - The New English Bible
TEV - Today's English Version (Good News)

Innes, D  (1992)  In Times of Sorrow. Record, 1992. Warburton, Victoria: Signs Publishing Co.

Mansell D. E. & Mansell, V. W. (1993)  Sure as the Dawn. Daily Meditations for Adults. Warburton, Victoria: Signs Publishing Co

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