“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” James 1:12-15
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about suffering from the Bible, from my own life, and from doing streets ministry and hearing countless people’s personal stories, it’s this. Some suffering is OPTIONAL.
The Lord does NOT promise those who believe in Him and follow Him as Lord that we will not have ANY suffering. We will ALL have SOME suffering in this life. We live in a fallen world. God never intended it that way. But because of sin, this world is filled with trials and tribulations. For those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ, however, we do not suffer alone. All the love, hope, comfort, encouragement, direction, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, peace, joy, strength, provision, protection, fellowship, absolutely everything we need in our everyday lives including when we face suffering is from God through the Lord Jesus Christ. But some of our suffering is OPTIONAL. Some of our suffering we have chosen, and it is suffering from which we can be set free.
Just as some of our suffering is caused by other people’s sin, some of our suffering – and the suffering of others – is BECAUSE OF OUR OWN SIN. It’s easy to point the finger at others, but we need to examine our own hearts and lives in the light of the Lord and His Word, allowing His Spirit to show us our sins we need to repent of and teach us through His Word how to leave those sins behind. The Bible proves this. My own life proves it. Countless times I meet people who share their struggles with me – struggles that are a direct result of living in rebellion toward God. But rather than surrender their lives to Christ as Lord and seek the Lord’s forgiveness and His strength and the love, help, encouragement, support, and prayer of His followers to learn how to be free from the sin that holds them in bondage, they stay stuck. Suffering. Sometimes with depression. Self-pity. Bitterness. Complaining. Accusation of others. Anger at God. Pride. Etc. I don’t just see this in the Bible. I see it in others. And I have done the very same myself. Perhaps you can relate.
People can love us. Pray for us. Encourage us. Offer us help and support. Etc. But nobody can repent for us. Nobody can believe in Christ for us. Nobody can surrender our lives wholly to Him for us. Nobody can study God’s Word for us. Nobody can learn to live by it for us. Nobody can diligently devotedly daily spend time with the Lord and seek and follow Him for us. Nobody can take the suffering we endure because of our unconfessed, un-repented sin for us. The Lord Jesus Christ already bore all of our sins, and all the world’s sins, and the punishment we deserve from God of death, hell, and the lake of fire in eternal torment instead of a forever relationship with the Lord so those who repent and turn genuinely to Christ with a true lasting commitment to Him as Lord can be forgiven and given a forever relationship with God and the ability in Christ’s strength to learn how to live our lives such that we are honoring and pleasing to God. Not suffering, and causing others to suffer, because we rebel against God and refuse to deal with what dishonors and displeases Him, but learning day by day how to live according to God’s ways and to enjoy His love, peace, joy, hope, and so very much more, most especially His unfathomably awesome fellowship forever.
Please look at your life openly and honestly. Are you experiencing any suffering, and causing others to suffer, and, most importantly, causing pain and suffering to the heart of God who created you with the desire for you be in His fellowship for eternity, because you are vehemently emphatically consciously or even unconsciously holding onto sin against God instead of repenting of it and holding onto the Lord with all of your heart and might? Oh, turn to the Lord, my dear friend, turn to the Lord. Turn to the Lord and leave your suffering caused by your sin behind. Turn!