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By Dr Jim Hardwicke

Pain and suffering, whether it’s physical, emotional, relational, or circumstantial, is bad enough. But when there’s no relief, when it just goes on and on with no end in sight, it tends to drain us of strength and hope. We are tempted to focus on ourselves and our problems, to feel sorry for ourselves, to give up. From personal experience in this situation, I (Jim) have found several things to be helpful:

1. Make every effort to focus on God. 

If you have the strength to only do one thing today, make it spending time alone with God and prayer—“She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. . . But the Lord answered [Martha] and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things, but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:39-42). Yes, you need time alone with God for your encouragement and strength. But a far greater reason to do it, is because God longs for intimate fellowship with you—“God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). Why do you think He has loved you with an everlasting love and drawn you with lovingkindness to Himself (Jeremiah 31:3)? Why do you think He has said that the most important thing you can ever do in life is to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:29-30)? Even in your wounded state, He wants you, your presence, your attention, your affection, and your heart. So fulfill the main purpose for which He called you to Himself and spend personal, intimate time with Him daily, primarily for His sake. Do so, and you will sense in your spirit that you have pleased Him and make Him happy, and all the more because in your weakened state, it took more of a sacrifice.

2. Make every effort to focus on others. 

You are not the only one who needs encouragement, prayer, or help. Think about family, friends, and others you know who would be blessed by you reaching out to them. Remember, Jesus said the second most important thing we can do in life is to love others—“The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31). The surprising thing is that the more you bless others, the more you will be blessed—“and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35). Nothing will lift your spirits like doing something to lift someone else’s spirits. 

3. Make every effort to be thankful. 

We are to be “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Ephesians 5:20). Find little good things to thank Him for. I can thank Him that my right arm doesn’t hurt as much as my left one does. 🙂 I can thank Him that I had a couple of hours today where I had a little more energy. And we should even thank Him for the suffering, holding firm in faith to Romans 8:28—“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Gratitude is a drug-free, cost-free, instantly-accessible way to lift your spirits. 

4. Keep trying to improve your situation, but with trust, not panic.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:7 that when we have a need, we are to [literally] “keep asking,” keep seeking,” and “keep knocking.” But we are to do so with calm trust, not frantic panic. Writing to believers in Jesus who were facing intense suffering, Peter told them to be “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Even if our suffering seems unfixable, we should still seek to improve the problem. Paul knew that God had given him a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9), but he still had a brilliant physician (Luke) with him almost all the time (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11) to help him. No physician or counselor we consult may have all the answers we need. We might need to consult others—“For by wise guidance you will wage war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 24:6). 

5. Give your suffering to God as an act of worship.

Jesus did. He didn’t want to suffer, but if it was His Father’s will, He was willing to do so for His sake—“And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup [the cross] pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). Like Jesus, we are to present all of ourselves, including our suffering, as an act of worship to God—“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1). As we surrender our suffering to Father in worship like Jesus did, we can experience a deeper intimacy with Him, what Paul called “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). 

6. Remember, as a child of God, your suffering is temporary. 

It’s not going to last forever. You’re going to get a glorious new body that will never suffer again—“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory, far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). You’re going to be in a place (heaven) where you will never experience pain, sorrow, or loneliness again—“And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

7. Ask God to show His glory through your suffering:

*To people around you

Your faith in the midst of suffering will inspire others who are suffering (and everyone does to some extent) to put their trust in God too. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Christians—“You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7). 

*To angels in heaven

Angels are watching you and how you respond to your suffering. Daniel calls them “angelic watchers” (Daniel 4:13, 17, 23). In a passage where Paul describes his sufferings for Christ, he says, “we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men” (1 Corinthians 4:9). God is seeking to show His “manifold wisdom . . . through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10). If you belong to Jesus, I believe at least one angel is with you right now—“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them” (Psalm 34:7). You always have an audience before whom to show your love and faith in Jesus no matter how tough things get—God Himself and angels.

*To everyone in heaven

When Christ returns, your faith which has been forged in the fire of suffering, will bring great glory to Him and also a great reward to you—“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). No wonder Paul said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). 

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