Will You Trust the Chairmaker and Not the Universemaker? collage by Joan C. Thomson

Does God make us suffer to teach us?

For Christians, the question is, which kind of suffering--persecution for Jesus or the trials of living in the world?

The Bible tells us “…we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3,4) The character building kind of suffering to which the New Testament refers the is not disease or other maladies that may result from poor diets, lack of exercise, selfishness, reckless driving, addictions and other versions of choosing our own way. Instead, it referred to persecution for being a Christian, which was prevalent throughout the Roman Empire (and in many parts of the world today). Christians were insulted, their property confiscated, they were imprisoned, flogged, tortured and executed.

Jesus said it would happen and none should be surprised since the world treated Him with contempt. This is the kind that should be embraced and rejoiced in because those who endure it will fellowship in Jesus’ sufferings and be rewarded in heaven. (Luke 6:22,23) Even so, Jesus didn’t submit to suffering until the time was right and Paul was always outrunning some murderous plot, God and the disciples often got him and Peter out. They didn’t look for trouble or automatically give in to it.

We get into problems when we confuse the two kinds of “suffering”. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33) Yes, we’ve have everyday troubles since Adam and Eve sinned, some of them horrible but these aren’t the ones to be happy about—they’re the ones to get rid of! Some of them we “earned” but we don’t have to “suffer the consequences”. You don’t have to carry them; Jesus already paid the price for our sins and sicknesses. Yes, physical ailments too!

Matt 8:17
16When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: "He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases." (emphasis added)

Father gives good gifts to His children who ask Him! (Matthew 7: 9-11) Many Christians have been duped into believing that their serious illnesses are a “blessing from God”. That kind of thinking fills cemeteries! Does God make the most of every situation? Absolutely! (Romans 8:28) Does God cause the suffering? No, the devil came to steal, kill and destroy but Jesus came to give us abundant life!

Western thinking has mixed Christianity with pagan Greek mythology, which has it that Pandora was, “given a gift of pain and sorrow for men from every Olympian god” as a punishment. (Redeeming Creation Van Dyke, et al. emphasis added) This kind of thinking paralyzes and keeps our time, attention, energy and resources focused on dealing with illnesses and other trials when we could be out doing the kinds of things for which we might be truly persecuted.

The Lord is willing to deliver you from your troubles—just ask! (Ps 34:19 righteous man may have many troubles,but the LORD delivers him from them all"

Here is a link for places to go for healing prayer:

Praying to God is a very private thing I do...I have never been comfortable praying out loud in public.

Sure, in church, when they do group prayers, I go through the motions, but I never feel quite "connected" when praying like that as I do when I pray by myself--silently.

I know what you mean about the best prayer being one on one with the Lord. I tend to have a bit of ADD and get very distracted by the other people at church. Recently though, God impressed upon me how much the time spent in congregational worship is about building each other up. I began to more fully understand that the time there isn't really about me or even my personal fellowship with the Lord, (though I’m certainly to bring the fruit of my personal time with the Lord with me), so, to a point, being aware of everyone else is part of the purpose. Everything I think, pray, say and do in corporate worship should build up my brothers and sisters in the Lord and the same is true for them. Therefore, as they build up others, I get built up. This understanding has made a big difference for me.

"Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church." I Corinthians 14:12

Praying together has power that praying alone doesn’t have. God longs for us to have unity and His presence is strong when we come together in His truth.

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name there am I with them.” Matthew 18:19,20

My best prayers to God are when I wake up in the middle of the night...

In fact, my best prayers are when I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep. That is when I utilize my time to "talk to God".... I have these little "conversations" with Him.

It is such a good idea to pray in those night times. God often wakes people up to pray. I heard testimony of a sister being awakened to pray for her brother who was overseas in the Army. She didn’t know he was, that very night, overdosing on drugs. God rescued him through his sister’s prayers. One Tuesday night, when my husband and I were on a mission trip in Haiti, our team was surrounded by a voodoo convocation and in serious danger. A team member’s sister prayed earnestly, the next week asking, "Was something going on with you last Tuesday night?"

I save my prayers to God for the "big" things like life and death.

I never quite understand people who pray for every little tiny thing to go right during their day. I sort of lump that all under a general prayer of asking Him to just do what He thinks is best for everyone.

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the hairs on your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29,30.

The Lord is very interested in every little detail of our lives. In another passage Jesus spoke about the lilies of the field and how much attention the Father gives to little flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow. Prayer really is a conversation. What He wants is intimate fellowship with us--a closeness like that of fiancées who tell each other everything and can't stand to be apart, like little children who bring little "wildflowers" and every little "bobo" to their mama. We collectively, are after all, the Bride of Christ--betrothed, fiancées, which includes us individually and we are children of our heavenly Father.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” Revelation 3:19

This verse is often used to illustrate God’s eagerness to save the lost and He is eager but this verse is really about His eagerness to be in close relationship with His people.

Questions about God or the Christian life?

Do you have questions about the things you read in the Bible or hear people say about God? Or, do you wonder if what the Bible says will really work? Ask them here or e-mail me and I'll do my best to get an answer for you.
All images and text are copyrighted by Joan C. Thomson and subject to all copyright laws. No part may be reproduced in any way without express written permission.