No human being escapes all suffering. While perhaps unkind, it would have been true for me to say over the baby I delivered today, “Welcome to a lifetime of suffering, little girl.” And Jesus promised that “in this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) But wouldn’t it be a good idea to escape unnecessary suffering?
While we all suffer, a common question is, Why?
Some suffering happens because of things others do to us. Some suffering happens because we still live in a messed-up world where “stuff” happens. And some suffering happens because of things we do to ourselves, which means some suffering is unnecessary.
In The Problem of Pain C.S. Lewis wrote: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
I often see people who are suffering unnecessarily. They seem to view the world as against them, and wonder why God doesn’t seem to be helping. But much of their pain is a direct result of their own actions.
We cannot escape all suffering. Suffering as a result of following Jesus is truly an honor. And it’s important to take action to change systems that cause widespread suffering. But going through pain because of our own actions means if our own actions change we can escape unnecessary suffering.
Suffering as a result of Sin
If you read the Bible or look around you, you cannot escape the truth that sin results in suffering. A great deal of the Old Testament is God describing the pain that nations, and even His own people, would experience because of their sins. While God can do whatever He wants, most of this suffering comes as a natural consequence.
Perhaps not immediately. Perhaps not in ways others can see. God never promised that life would be fair. Some of God’s friends regularly asked Him why it often seems unrighteous people appear to be living trouble-free, at least for now.
But God’s principles work. When His principles are violated, we get harmed. In the 21st century some examples would include:
- The guilt and shame a woman may live with for years after having an abortion.
- The heart and/or lung disease resulting from long-term use of tobacco.
- The heartbreak of a marriage disruption when one partner engages in pornography.
- The family stress and bondage from using debt to finance a desired lifestyle.
- The couple who engaged in sex together before marriage and wonder why sex seems to end after the wedding.
The enemy of our souls loves to come at us with a one-two punch of lies. He temps you with, “Oh, you can get away with this. It won’t really hurt you.” And once you mess up he screams, “Gotcha! Too late now!” And the guilt and shame pile up.
Suffering as a result of Brokenness
Sin and immaturity are often hard to separate. Would that young woman have undergone an abortion if anyone had offered her another way? Would that family have become embroiled in debt without the relentless marketing by credit card companies? Would that husband have become caught in pornography if his older classmate had not entertained him with those videos while riding the bus to school?
After thousands of years of sin it’s hard to know where the blame begins. Ultimately it goes back to Adam and Eve.
But just because our DNA and our environment are messed up does not mean there is nothing we can do. You and I still have the ability to choose. We can grow up! Some of our suffering is unnecessary!
The good news is that Jesus came to do away with all this mess – sin, suffering, brokenness, death, all of it.
And much of the restoration He came to bring is available to us here and now. Not all of it; we still await eternity. But we can escape unnecessary suffering.
So what do we do now?
Invite Jesus to Change Your Heart
You can’t stop sinning or become healed from brokenness on your own. Your unnecessary suffering begins to end when you say Yes to Jesus.
If you have said Yes to Him, the Holy Spirit will regularly put His finger on something in your heart or life and say, “This right here; it needs to change. Let Me change you here!”
Agree with Him. Give Him access. Let Him do what He needs to do in changing you from the inside out.
Refuse to Settle for Less
Healing or lasting change rarely happens in a moment. God usually takes you through a process. And that process usually takes time.
Give yourself the same grace Jesus gives you. You are loved! And because of that, change is possible.
But don’t settle for the lie that continued anger, lust, fear, debt, shame, etc. is necessary. That’s unnecessary suffering! Refuse to stop until God is finished with you.
Take Charge Where You DO Have a Choice
There are many things you cannot change; focus on the things you can.
- You can decide to spend time with Jesus every day.
- You can decide to tell your mind where to go instead of chasing after thoughts and feelings.
- You can decide to feed your mind uplifting nourishment regularly.
- You can decide to spend most of your time with people who fill you up and encourage you in a godly direction.
Don’t quit! Instead of unnecessary suffering, through this process God will turn your problems into character.
Your Turn: What parts of your suffering might be unnecessary? Can you see a next step to take to escape unnecessary suffering? Leave a comment below.
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