By Josiah Espinoza | June 19th, 2019
A faithful family of a local church just received some terrible news. They were recently told that their 7 year old daughter had stage 4 cancer and she only had months to live. Believing what the Scriptures told them in James 5:13-15 they called for the elders of their church and they prayed over their daughter. They fasted, they waited and they cried to the Lord, but miraculous healing did not come. They immediately started chemo therapy because as believers they believed that God could providentially use practical means to heal their daughter. 2 months of intensive chemotherapy and the doctors said that she was not making any progress in her treatment. There was nothing else they could do. The family prayed and prayed, day and night. They watched their little daughter suffer but 4 months later she passes away. They didn’t understand. Jesus told them in John 14:14, ” If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” Why didn’t Jesus heed their prayers?
A newly married couple just got called to serve at a church in another city. Excited and anxious to serve the Lord in their calling they immediately pack and make the 6 hour drive to their new home and new church. Exhausted from the packing and moving the wife falls asleep, the husband thought to himself, “Good, she can rest while I make the drive to our new home.” Minutes later, the wife wakes up dazed and confused. The car had flipped and her husband next to her was unconscious. They are rushed to the hospital where they are treated and given some terrible new. The doctor says to the wife, “Ma’am, your husband fell asleep behind the wheel and that’s why he crashed. You will make a full recovery from your broken femur and concussion but your husband has sustained major trauma to his cervical spine. Unfortunately, he will never be able to walk again and he will have limited movement in his arms. He will have trouble communicating and eating for the rest of his life.” It has been 10 years now and the husband has been in a wheelchair with no signs of getting better even after hundreds of prayers and countless nights of crying out to God for healing from his wife.
A mother of 5 beautiful children has a severe case of fibromyalgia. She has been suffering from this disease for more than 20 years. She has been prayed over by her husband, her children, her pastor, the elders and from brothers and sisters in the Church. She has been to doctors, to natural health clinics, acupuncturists and all other types of physicians. She has taken medicine and changed her diet but nothing has helped. There are times where the pain in her joints are so excruciating that she is bed ridden for days, unable to move. Her body flares up with swelling and in her bed she cries out to the Lord to provide comfort and healing to her body but healing does not come. Where are you oh Lord?
There is a man who struggles with anxiety and depression. His pain and suffering puts great strain on his wife and children. Contemplating suicide he cries to the Lord in the dark seasons of his soul but all he receives is silence. He weeps in his bed, he tosses sleeplessly in the night and all he can do is reach out to others for comfort and help. He has to take medicine to help with his depression. He doubts his faith. He says to himself, “I thought Christians should have joy unspeakable. Where is my peace and happiness? How can God allow me to suffer such great darkness in my life?”
Suffering like this is an inevitable reality in the human experience and it is no different for the people of God. All throughout the Scriptures those who sought after God and trusted Him suffered great loss and great pain. The Patriarchs, the prophets, the 12 Apostles, the early disciples and even Christians today are suffering tremendous loss of life, limb and freedom in their service to the Lord and his Kingdom. Just take a few minutes to read Voice of the Martyrs articles and you will see that suffering is a reality of Christians today. If you desire to live a godly life, suffering, pain, persecution and demonic oppression is an inevitable reality for your walk. As Christians, we are not immune to disease, to pain, to sickness, to cancer or depression. The Scriptures tell us:
1 Peter 4:12-13- Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
Romans 5:3-5- Not only that, but 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.
Romans 8:16-18- The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
2 Timothy 3:12- Indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
You may say, “That’s true but our suffering only comes from the devil, not God!” Have you not read the story of Joseph, that though Joseph’s brother meant the sins against him for evil, God meant those same sins for good? (Gn. 50:20) Have you not read the story of Job where God in his sovereignty permits the devil to plague Job with the loss of his possessions, the death of his children and the suffering of boils on his skin? (Job 1:12; 2:6) Have you not read of the Apostles and the early disciples in Acts, how they underwent tremendous loss. Many of them killed by the sword, some of them enduring famine, some of them enduring beatings, imprisonment, persecution and sickness?
Paul cried out to the Lord to deliver him from a thorn in the flesh (indicating physical/spiritual suffering). That thorn in the flesh was a messenger from Satan. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:7-9
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
That messenger from Satan was given to Paul by God. How do I know? Satan would want Paul to be conceited and prideful in the revelations he was receiving, so God, for the good of Paul, sent suffering to Paul to keep him humble.
Out of all the men in the world, if there was anyone who deserved to be a rich, comfortable King, it was the God-Man Jesus. Yet, he emptied himself of his divine right to temporal prosperity and riches, in order to become a slave. He was hated, betrayed and abandoned. He was arrested falsely, his face was beaten, he was spit upon, his beard was pulled from his skin. He was flogged, his skin torn open, his flesh mutilated. He was left unrecognizable. A crown of thorns was pressed around his head ripping open his scalp. He was forced to carry his own instrument of torture to his place of death. He was nailed to the cross, his ligaments and tendons torn to shreds as they entered his hands and feet. He died the most gruesome death, enduring the most painful form of torture known to man and guess what, all of that was predestined and willed by the Father. (Is. 53:10; Acts 4:27-28)
In the same way, God wills our suffering too. 1 Peter 4:19 says, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” But we do not suffer in vain, just as Joseph or Job or the prophets or Paul or the Apostles or Christ did not suffer in vain. God wills our suffering in order that we may learn, as Paul did, to rely on the strength of God in our weakness, so that we may be more conformed to the image of Christ. That is what it means for God to work out all things for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. (Rm. 8:28) The “good” that God is working out in us is to conform us to the image of the Son. The “all” that God works for good is everything that comes against you, including your pain and suffering that He wills.
So why doesn’t God heal all of the time? I believe it is so that we learn to trust our Creator in our suffering, sickness and pain. I believe it is so that we are conformed to the image of Jesus as we trust in His strength in the midst of our weakness. I believe it is so that we are humbled before Him and so that we might partake of the sufferings of Christ in order that we may reign with Christ at the consummation of his Kingdom when he returns. We do not suffer in vain brothers and sisters. Bear your cross, suffer well and lean on God’s strength in your pain.