By Beverley Russell - June 2006
1. About suffering
To people who are suffering, the gospel sounds like the good news that it really is. It offers hope and comfort, with no threat of punishment. Even in the most hopeless situations where it seems to others that there should be no reprieve, there is hope. So it really is good news.
Suffering is a great equalizer, for it can apply to young or old, to weak or strong, to rich or poor, to black or white and to every national identity. As well, it applies to humans who are more good than evil, and to those who are more evil than good. Suffering does not divide people, for it strikes inside every human heart, where we know there is a divided heart. We find therein good and evil, and it is suffering which more amply divides that two way heart.
If God is with us, suffering stirs and nourishes the goodness in our hearts so we can say “thank you for this evil prison in which we have entered”, as some have been able to. Suffering humbles everyone, for it is not possible to be proud and self important, when we suffer. There is no competition in suffering for no one wishes more of it than another person. Sufferers of all persuasions long for help, and plead to be reclaimed from the pit.
Sufferers cry out for solutions and when none comes, the comforters who have come to help in the difficulty, are as impotent as the trees. Comforters cannot solve problems and recognize their impotence to heal a permanent disability, or to change the behaviour of a tormentor. No one can manage that, so no one can claim the cure. Some bystanders turn away and walk on the other side, maybe for selfish reasons, or for religious reasons, but comforters go down onto the road and into the pit with the sufferer and find an understanding of love and grace there, and a healing of sorts. They recognize that God is in that place there. God blesses the tormented sufferers and the comforters alike, when they are both in place, because His face shines in the pit.
Suffering can make us interdependent for we cease to be safe in our own secure life potential. No sufferer is self sufficient. Everyone suffers at some time or other in their life, and all sufferers need help. Godly comforters know that there is a blessing in the giving and the receiving of help, but ultimately the eventual dependence on God is the only safety net.
Suffering people have no desire to think of the possessions in their lives. People are important, things are not important, luxuries become a burden. The physical necessities of life are a sufferer’s only need. Godly sufferers learn patience, dogged patience, until they become helpless God loving saints, with a never ending source of importuning with a bothering of the Father, day and night, in every waking hour. The importuning for a list of things gradually becomes a soothing silence as the silent partner with God realizes that God already knows what is required.
Sufferers abandon reason and ask for the seemingly impossible, with an uncomplicated sense of
being able to whisper in the ear of the Father. They have learned to trust their dependency on
God and His love, and earnestly do so without regard to criticism. The approach, in the terrible
need, will not strengthen any character towards independence but it will strengthen the
connection with the Father so that He is walking beside the depending sufferer.
There is a fatigue in trying to escape from the suffering, when it seems that it never ends. It is a tormenting thorn, a weeping sore, and any transforming acceptance seems elusive yet. Poverty, poor in spirit, mourners, the meek and helpless, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, those who need mercy and peace, those persecuted for righteousness sake, those reviled and accused of all manner of evil “… Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for your reward is in heaven, Matthew 5. They are all dependent sufferers, long sufferers, with a joy in the future.
Giving preference to the Word of God instead of the word of people and traditions.