Paradoxes of paradoxes is how God uses suffering to produce righteousness in His children. Through suffering, God’s children ultimately find joy and peace with their Father. The world can never know this, let alone understand and relate to it.
Suffering comes in many forms: physical pain, disease, persecution, familial divisions, friendship conflicts, etc. God can, and does, use these sufferings for his own purposes and for the advancement of His children to accomplish His will. These situations are never pleasant at the time, but looking back, the believer with his or her eyes wide-open, should be able to see the fruits of these painful experiences. Just ask Job!
I’d like to give the reader an example of just one of several instances of sufferings I have endured in this life, in an effort to inspire and encourage others who have gone through, or are going through, their own trials and tribulations.
Jesus Himself said:
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
It’s not a matter of “if” we will have trials and tribulations; it’s a matter of “when.” They will happen, and when they do happen, it’s up to us to lean on the Holy Spirit and allow Him to guide and direct us in accomplishing what these trials and tribulations were meant to produce – righteousness and holiness through our growth in the Lord.
Jesus Himself is our example:
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:” (1 Peter 2:21).
The Reader’s Digest Condensed Version
Around 10 years of age on summer break, two of my friends and I broke into a construction site wanting to climb the structure that was being built. Ironically, this structure resulted in a three-story Assembly of God church. Evading the construction crew, we climbed the stairs of the hollowed-out structure to the top of the building. The roof was right above our heads and the ceiling we were walking on had crossing two-by-fours with insulation in between each square. My friends were aware, but I wasn’t, that the insulation wasn’t boarded up underneath. They were walking on the two-by-fours and I, being the competitive chap I was, decided to beat them to the other side. I took off into a full run, and the first insulated square I stepped on immediately gave way. I fell on a beam that ended up right at my crotch. I fell backwards and hit my head on the beam behind me and fell through the square, along with the floating piece of insulation falling to the ground above me.
Being indoctrinated into Darwinian evolution, as my school-mates were, I remember thinking, “Well, I’m going to die. I’m going to ‘splat’ all over the ground. I don’t believe in God, but I’m about to find out if He exists.”
This was the last of three near-death experiences I had before the age of 12. In all three I had my short life pass before my eyes. The experience, for me, is best described as seeing a picture of someone or an event that moves for a brief amount of time, like an extremely quick silent movie for each picture. What I remember most about all three experiences was that when it came to time, it was almost non-existent. What happens so fast in real time is perceived as almost timeless.
At the very last moment, a thought was put into my mind. I needed to tuck my chin to my chest, and when I landed, I was to keep my chin to my chest with all my might to try and keep my head from snapping back and cracking open from the impact. I’m pretty sure now, I know where this thought came from. When I landed, all I heard was a thunderous “boom” as my right hip impacted, rapidly followed by my tail bone and my left hip and back as I crashed into the hard-packed dirt. Even though I tried as hard as I could, my head still flung back with astonishing force, striking the ground at last.
My next thought was, “I can’t breathe! I’m going to suffocate to death!” I’ve had the wind knocked out of me many times in my lifetime, but this was something altogether unique. I absolutely couldn’t breathe and almost passed out. I remember the construction workers running toward me, screaming, “Are you OK?” They didn’t know what to do with this young boy gasping with all his might, desperately trying to draw any amount of oxygen into his lungs. They were terrified and couldn’t believe I was actually alive after falling such a distance and landing the way that I did.
Because there were signs on the fencing that said, “Danger! Do not enter construction zone. Trespassers will be prosecuted!” I was terrified of the consequences of our actions. I don’t know how long I was there trying to catch my breath, but I do remember telling them in sputtered breathless words that I was OK and I just needed to get out of there and go home. The workers were white as a ghost and, with looks of utter amazement, they let me go as I hobbled out of the site, tilted to one side, limping like a zombie and still gasping for breath.
Of course, because of the fear of being arrested, I told my Mom I injured myself playing football. Then the pain came. I couldn’t stand up and walk; I had to crawl. I pinned myself, sitting with my back firmly against a wall, and the muscles in my neck pulled my head to my shoulder, alternating my head from one shoulder to the next in long intervals. I couldn’t straighten my neck and hold my head upright. It was really weird. I could barely breath and the pain was truly indescribable. I could find no relief in any position I tried; it was utterly useless. These episodes lasted several days, maybe even a week or two – I can’t remember; it was a long time ago. I refused to go to a doctor, and after many days, the pain finally began to subside.
To top it all off, a year or so later, I injured myself playing the “pass-out game,” striking my head on the right side of my temple, full weight, on solid concrete. (If you don’t know what the “pass-out game” is, that is a good thing. You aren’t going to hear what it is from me.) I’m not sure it is possible for any human being to have had a more severe headache than I did that day; it was absolutely excruciating as I held my head, rolling on the bed, screaming and crying out. This too, lasted several days.
The Early Years
Unbelievably, and by the grace of God, I had a very successful athletic career and was essentially pain-free. I even had a couple of other head trauma incidents playing football. I played everything, including basketball, baseball, tennis, soccer, racquetball, golf, track and field, bowling, etc. I received ribbons, trophies, athletic records, and the like.
The one thing was that, even though I had experienced such pain and agony, I still had little to no empathy for others and their infirmities and physical struggles. I just couldn’t relate because, as I said, the grace of God gave me rather good health in my early years reaching up into my late 20’s. Then things began to change…
Pain, slowly at first, and more rapidly progressing as time went by, became a constant companion. It wasn’t until I was in my late 30’s that I was finally able to get an MRI and it was discovered that from the impact of my fall, I had five bulging and degenerative discs in my neck combined with major arthritis and inflammation. And this has been my lot in life ever since.
One by one, and very rapidly, I had to give up all my sports and hobbies and, finally, my love of writing, recording and performing music. It’s been a long and arduous road – depressing at many intervals along the way – but the Lord is still, and always has been, gracious to me.
Now I’m the compassionate man God had always wanted me to be. He has given me a heart that empathizes with others, and I can relate and encourage others in their trials and tribulations of physical pain and suffering. That is something that could never have been generated in me had I not had this traumatic experience in my life.
As I look back today, I actually find myself, at times, thanking God for allowing all this pain and suffering to inflict me the way that it has. It has produced a sympathy in me that would have never been attained in any other way. Also, this suffering has produced other positive attributes and godly characteristics within me, as these experiences have bled into other areas in my life, all for the glory of God. This is none other than God’s way.
A Note on Suffering
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). The definition of “persecute” is: to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict specifically: to cause to suffer because of belief.
No matter where this persecution comes from, and it will come, what matters most is what can or should be done when it arrives. We in the West tend to think of persecution as something our brothers and sisters in Christ are enduring at the hand of the enemies of God in other lands; and indeed it is. But allow me to suggest that persecution can, and often does, run a wide gamut of possibilities that are not often considered. These include all trials and tribulations one goes through in life and isn’t necessarily limited to the common understanding we have of persecution. My own story can be considered a form of persecution in relation to the chronic pain I endure every day. I’m certain many of you can relate. Scripture tells us that often pain can be administered by the enemy of our souls, with God’s allowance, of course:
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:8-11).
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:1-5).
I know, dearly beloved, that you too have your stories of sufferings, trials and persecutions. My prayer for you is that this article has encouraged and inspired you to allow those sufferings, which God has ordained for your short life, to produce the righteousness He has planned for you to carry on into eternity.
Trust me, I know it isn’t easy, but we do have wonderful promises from God Himself that are too great and magnificent for our finite minds. Those are things we just cannot comprehend this side of heaven.
Paul put it this way:
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
Hang in there, child of God. Righteousness Through Suffering God’s Way never fails!
Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!