Suffering has a way of shrinking your view of your entire life down to your pain. It’s like when you have a headache, everything you do is tainted and affected by the throbbing your feel in your forehead.
Suffering has a way of causing spiritual amnesia. We forget that there is more true about us than just the suffering. Paul encouraged the church in Philippi to think about “whatever is true.”
So what is true of us, always, no matter what we face?
We Have Better than We Deserve
The New Testament authors regularly tell us that God has shown us great mercy. In Ephesians 2, Paul reminds us that we were dead in sin underneath God’s wrath but that God responded to our rebellion with great mercy, making us alive with Christ, and setting us on a path to know for endless ages the immeasurable riches of being treated kindly by the omnipotent God. Think about that! The God who can literally do anything He wishes has determined to take those who deserve His displeasure and cause their hearts to know the joy of His kindness for all eternity.
Our Hope is Invincible
Peter says in 1 Peter 1 that, in God’s great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a hope that is alive. This hope cannot be put to death. Why? Because it is grounded in Christ’s powerful resurrection from the dead. The life of our hope is tied to the life of Jesus – it cannot die while He lives.
My father was a wrestler in high school and would often wrestle with my brother and I when we were little kids. He would sometimes let us put him in a hold or get him in a headlock (our favorite move), but whenever he wanted, he sprung out and pinned both of us to the ground in a flash. It was impossible for 8 and 7 year old boys to hold down a skilled wrestler in his physical prime. So it was with death and Jesus. God raised Jesus from the dead because “it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24). This world threw its strongest power, death, at Jesus, and was crushed – Jesus emerged victoriously alive! And so it is with our hope.
Our Joy will Be Unending
Peter also tells us in 1 Peter 1 that God has waiting for His children an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade because He is guarding it for us in heaven, away from every corrupting power. When God unleashes the riches of His kindness upon us, neither time nor decay will ever lessen the joy they bring to our hearts.
In this life, we face the constant enemy of time. As Ben Harper said, time takes our tomorrows and turns them into yesterdays. Nothing lasts. All things change and fade away. And not just things – people as well. There is no greater human joy that I know than to be married to Beth, my wife. The delight I have in her is inexpressible in words. But all the love and joy and delight I can conjure as her soul cleaves to mine cannot stop our bodies from wasting away with each passing day. One day the magnitude of the joy we have in each other will serve to increase the pain when death takes one of us away. Though our love does not fade, our bodies will and one of us will likely have to live without the other.
But in God’s inheritance, there is no time. There will be no tomorrow. Yesterdays will be a thing of the past. We will live in one, unending, eternal day that will never know a sunset for the Lord God will be our light, shining in His everlasting glory. Tears, death, mourning, crying, and pain will pass away and our joy will be as unending as God Himself.
Your suffering is not your life. In Christ, oh, there is more! Remember these things that are true, and think upon such things. You will be sorrowful and yet always rejoicing as you fix our hope completely on the grace to brought to us when Jesus is revealed.