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The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

A spiritual perspective on suffering


By Maya Spinler

Suffering turns life upside down. Suffering, pain, call it what you will, shattered my world to pieces most recently due to the devastating, sudden loss of a family member among other things. I know I am not exclusive to suffering. Too many others are experiencing similar tragedy, which sadly has become even more quotidian as of late due to COVID-19. In my grief, I called every aspect of my life into question. Outstandingly, I wondered if God was really there. Logically I knew He was, but when your heart is so broken and mind so tormented, the loneliness is simply overwhelming. As I cried out to Him in tears, begging Him to show me He loved me, to show me that I need to live to see another day, He taught me some of the most stretching and intimate things I have ever experienced in my Christian walk.

Seek the presence: Find peace

“Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me. He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. And so I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth!” (Psalm 116:7-9).

The Bible says where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” What is the glory? While glory sometimes means fame, honor or praise, in scripture, it also has another meaning. It is a name that is given to God’s manifest presence. God is everywhere all the time, or omnipresent, but there are some special times where He is more tangible. I am a faithful witness that when we ask God to draw near and reveal Himself, He most certainly does. As I have been working through the grieving process, I have had indescribable encounters with God that have built up my faith and restored peace. A peace that does not say everything is perfect or well, but one that hands God the hurt and inspires an attitude of praise.

One such example was when I was playing piano on the worship team at my church a month ago. I did not feel like being at church or worshiping at all that morning. While we were singing the last song, “Way Maker,” the Lord opened up my right ear and I heard supernatural music no one else heard. I froze, awestruck by the sound, and started weeping as the presence of the Lord came upon me. I know well what the congregation sounds like. I can confirm it was definitely not them and I was not wearing an in-ear monitor. For just a moment, I heard the most complex, loud, beautiful, indescribable heavenly music. So many voices and layers, but one distinct, pure voice stood above all of them. They were singing in the same key we were. While it lasted only a short time, it was an unforgettable experience that strengthened my heart and reminded me of the Lord’s realness, His love and the truth of Scripture (Psalm 73:25-26). I left the house of the Lord that day with so much joy in my heart and on my lips. 

Praise is strength

In Matthew 21:16, Jesus says to the Pharisees, “Haven’t you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, ‘You have taught children and infants to give you praise.’” He was directly quoting Psalm 8:2 minus one word: strength. Either Jesus quoted Scripture wrong, which is impossible, or He was equating strength with praise. When we are at our wit’s end and all the forces of hell have been unleashed, the only thing we can do is get on our knees and fight with praise (Isaiah 61:3). To paraphrase Pastor Kent Christmas, it is better to go down fighting with faith in your mouth than disbelief in your heart. In the midst of our suffering, it is easy to lay down and just marinate in our grief. There is time for that, but we are not meant to stay in that place. We are rather equipped to call upon the authority that has been given to us through the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ, who bore every kind of pain, evil, betrayal and sin that would ever be committed against you or by you. Worship is a weapon (2 Chronicles 20:21-22).

Thankfulness is medicine for a broken heart

In the deepest midst of brokenness, my mother told me, “Thankfulness is medicine for a broken heart.” While we worship, we must not forget to personally thank Him. Thank you, God, for all you have brought me through. Thank you for always being faithful. Thank you that I am not alone. This was what the godly people of the Bible did. Paul gave thanks in prison, David praised as he was being attacked from all sides and in the midst of seeing his entire nation destroyed Jeremiah said, “I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: the faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!’” (Lamentations 3:20-24).

By faith we proclaim these things. Faith is not declaring what is felt in a moment, but what has been proved in a lifetime. When thankfulness is declared, it begins a healing work in our hearts. We see God has never abandoned us and has always provided everything we need and will continue just the same.

Our blessed hope

Suffering will not last forever. At the end of time, pain, death, hurt — all of it — will be destroyed. Every tear will be wiped from our eyes. There will be no more crying, no more hurting. All of this is coming soon. Jesus, whose return is called our blessed hope, is coming soon. 

Your life matters because you are a testimony of the goodness of God, precious in His sight. He does not like seeing you hurt and wants to comfort you (Psalm 116:15, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Until He returns, we must endure suffering for a little while longer. In the midst of your deepest grief and sorrow, when He seems so far away, understand He is closer than your skin. I implore you to press into God’s Word, praise and thank Him and encourage fellow believers because time is short. The eternal joy that awaits us is near and will be so worth it all.

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