In 1946, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl wrote a powerfully important book called Man’s Search for Meaning. In it Frankl details his personal experience and observations of his fellow Jews in the infamous Auschwitz death camp. He concluded that those who could find meaning and purpose for their lives, even in the midst of suffering, and could imagine a better future, survived and thrived. These people were able to even find life after their release. Those who could not find purpose and meaning, and could only see their current suffering, not only struggled to survive but even were among those that took their own lives to escape the pain they experienced physically and emotionally.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.Viktor E. Frankl
It is human for us to search for meaning in the midst of suffering. Right now, we are all collectively experiencing suffering (in the midst of the Covid 19 crisis), some in small amounts and others in significant doses. We are not meant to compare our sufferings, for who could ever compare their suffering with that of Jesus? We must be careful to not mistake suffering for inconvenience. It is however, important for us to acknowledge our suffering and those who are also suffering.
We are often confused about the purpose of suffering. We think it’s great when someone suffers for doing evil and we think it is terrible when someone suffers for doing good. But the truth is that all suffering has meaning and purpose if we look for it.
We are not meant to compare our sufferings, for who could ever compare their suffering with that of Jesus? We must be careful to not mistake suffering for inconvenience. It is however, important for us to acknowledge our suffering and those who are also suffering.Tweet
TIMING IS EVERYTHING.
Romans 8:18 says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Notice that there are two elements of time mentioned. The “present sufferings” and the “glory that will be revealed.” It is always easier to be mindful of a current suffering. If you stub your toe on the coffee table, your mind will immediately draw your attention to it – so much so that it is all you can think about for the next ten minutes. It’s hard to thinking about anything other than the pain and it stopping. The same is true for all other forms of pain we suffer. It is hard for us to consider anything beyond it. We must wait patiently for the good to be revealed in us. It is a process to turn pain into passion.
THE 3 FUTURE FRUITS OF SUFFERING
Suffering leads to JOY
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:2-3 (NIV)
Jesus was able to look ahead to the joy he would experience on the other side of his pain. He also was able to picture our joy over being set free from the power of sin and death. I love that were are encouraged to consider Jesus as the source of strength so that we do not grow weary or lose heart. Oh the joy that God has prepared for those who endure!
Suffering leads to our HEALING
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)
We have been healed from the penalty and punishment of our sins. This doesn’t mean we won’t experience the consequences of our sins, but rather we will never have to pay the ransom for our failures, or even the sin and harm we have caused others. Through the sacrifice of Jesus we receive hope and healing.
Suffering leads to GLORY
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NIV)
Every pain and moment of suffering has purpose and meaning. God is building in us perseverance, character and hope (see Romans 5). This is the confidence we have through the living example of Jesus and the cross. Good Friday is about remembering what Jesus has done for us. It is this same Jesus that revealed his glory three days later when he walked out of the grave. This is the promise for us who put our trust in Jesus… from suffering to glory forever.
What healing, joy or glory has God brought to your life through suffering? Let’s reflect not only on the work of God through the suffering in our own lives, but the work Jesus, the suffering servant!