If we’re alive, we’ll suffer. It’s inevitable. We’re bed-ridden with the flu. Taxes are due. A boss abuses his authority. Our spouse lies to us. People kill and commit suicide. A flood destroys a city. These events are so common we don’t give much thought to them. Suffering happens almost every day, whether we’re ready or not.
To make matters worse, we choose to increase suffering for ourselves and others. How? By not giving much thought to suffering. We avoid the topic as if our ignorance will spare us from suffering. But that will only put us in the crosshairs. Then we get hit and act surprised.
It’s not fair.
What did I do to deserve this?
I didn’t know this would happen.
I’m not prepared!
Of course, we’re not prepared. How could we be? We’ve worked so long and hard to avoid suffering; we completely forgot about it.
Winter is coming to many areas of the United States. Are we who live in the path of northern winds prepared for the cold and snow? Sickness is inevitable. Is our medicine cabinet stocked up? What have we done to protect ourselves?
If we were paralyzed, we would seek out specialists. We’d be relentless in seeking treatment. We’d do anything to walk again. But, what about Jesus and his gifts of salvation? Are they so prevalent in our churches that we don’t give much thought to them?
If we live, we’ll suffer. But, we increase suffering because we don’t prepare for it. Then, when suffering comes, we blame God. We demand to know why God makes us suffer. We complain, quit, and get upset because it’s not fair. We beg God to undo the suffering. We bargain and plead with him. But he doesn’t seem to give our complaints much thought.
A new life in Christ Jesus is our hope. Not only that, Jesus is our access to God.
God made us and all creatures. He’s given us a body and soul, eyes, ears, fingers and toes, your brain and five senses, and still takes care of them (Martin Luther, The Small Catechism, First Article of The Creed). But that doesn’t mean we should go out of our way to damage and undo ourselves. Instead, with the time God gives us, we prepare ourselves for suffering.
Sin and death will come to us. Troubles will find us. But where will they find us? Will we attempt to avoid and flee from them? Or will they find us in God’s Word, in the water, bodied and bloodied by our Savior?
All we have is given to us by God. All of our sufferings and troubles are created by us and others because we misuse God’s gifts in ways that damage and undo us. That’s why we suffer and die. And yet, with Jesus, we’ve already died in baptism so that every day is a new day, a new life in Christ Jesus through faith.
A new life in Christ Jesus is our hope. Not only that, Jesus is our access to God. We don’t have to bargain with God. We’ve gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand (Rom 5:2).
Now we’re free from worry about what God’s up to when we’re suffering. In fact, in Christ Jesus, we’re so free from worry and want, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Rom 5:3-4).
In this world, we’ll have suffering and troubles. It’s inevitable. But take heart: Jesus has overcome the world through his suffering, death, and resurrection (John 16:33). More than that, after we’ve suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who’s called us to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us (1 Pet 5:10). Jesus will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Death will be no more. As Revelation 21:4 says, there will be no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain because suffering, troubles, and death...these things will pass away with a word from Jesus: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).