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Sentence Sermons (Christian Inspiration) #116 --- Suffering
Quotations on Suffering
There is no such thing as an unanswered prayer when it is uttered in sincere faith. Sometimes the answer is "No"; sometimes it is "Wait awhile." Sometimes the worst thing that could happen to us would be for God to grant our wish. Any parent knows the experience of denying the child of what he wants in order that he may have what he needs.
The trouble is that prayer for most of us is all command and no communion. And often times we do not recognize the answer when it comes.
Paul prayed three times for God to remove his "thorn in the flesh," but he reconciled himself to God's negative answer and wrote, "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9.)
SUFFERING, you see, is not a denial of God's love; it is but another sphere of its operation. God's purposes encompass more than physical existence. With Him, our spiritual welfare comes first. Our destiny is not to be comfortable on earth, but to be "conformed to the image of His Son" in heaven. (Romans 8:29.)
Here, someone will ask, "If God has a program, which we cannot comprehend, why should we ask Him to do it our way?" Augustine answered that a long time ago when he wrote, "Without God, we can not; without us, God will not." Therefore, whatever else you do, do not stop praying. Without prayer, you are without God; and without God, you are without everything."
—John F. Anderson, Jr., Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, Jan. 15, 1955.
Sufferings purge the conscience and clarify the vision. ... While suffering is never to be sought for its own sake, we should not be so surprised when it touches us. ... It is sad to see a sufferer unprofited by the sufferings of life.
—George Ewing Davies, Salt Lake Herald-Republican, Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 1, 1917.
Courage in suffering shows more manhood than courage in action.
—Arthur F. Bishop, Austin Daily Statesman, Austin, Texas, April 29, 1907.
Love gives us the power to endure suffering which enables us to see visions of greater happiness.
—W.H. Chamberlain, The White and Blue, Provo, Utah, May 17, 1916.
No man can save men without suffering with men.
—Henry F. Cope, Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Ill., Aug. 22, 1909.
Through suffering lasting friendships are born, character is sweetened, sympathy is created, and patience is brought forth.
—M. Howard Fagan, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, Calif., Jan. 29, 1923.
Our suffering is that we may more perfectly understand, and that from the fires of the refinery of suffering there shall be brought out a purity of character, a completed power for service that we have never known before.
—M.A. Dodd, The Shreveport Times, Shreveport, La., Jan. 3, 1927.
Suffering is one of the finest arguments we have for the immortality of the soul. It is a natural thing for a man to avoid suffering. If we had no higher destiny than the happiness this world can offer, he would be justified in trying to banish suffering from his life entirely. But Christ came into the world and gave a teaching contrary to our natural inclinations. From the first moments of His life, Christ was marked as a man of suffering.
—Thomas L. Graham, New York Times, New York, N.Y., Oct. 16, 1939.
The life of fellowship with God is a gloriously happy life, and that fellowship comes through association with God in seemingly unbearable sufferings. Our happiness in Christ comes out of His suffering a Calvary. Our sufferings will bring us into touch with God Himself."
—Ivan Lee Holt, Dallas Morning News, July 8, 1918.
Suffering may be a trial of righteousness, and as such it may strengthen faith, and is therefore disciplinary.
Piety is not perfected in the field of prosperity.
Real piety is unshaken by adversity, and unspoiled by prosperity.
A correct idea of suffering widens man's view of the providence of God and vindicates His justice.
—William P. King, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Ga., Dec. 11, 1927.
Suffering reveals man to himself. No one knows himself until he has suffered.
—H.W. Knickerbocker, Houston Post-Dispatch, Houston, Texas, Dec. 19, 1927.
Only suffering draws the inner heart of song and can elicit the perfumes of the soul.
—H.W. Knickerbocker, Houston Post-Dispatch, Houston, Texas, May 19, 1930.
Suffering is the painter that makes our lives beautiful in the dark shading lines that set the rest in relief.
—H. Curran Wilbur, Wheeling Register, Wheeling, W.Va., Jan. 25, 1903.
Every blessing we enjoy represents a martyrdom or a suffering somewhere in the past.
—The Friend, Philadelphia, Pa., Feb. 11, 1899.
Suffering is not a misfortune to be merely resigned to, but it is always an opportunity to be triumphed in. Suffering is here; it is a fact; it is a word that we cannot escape or evade or intelligently deny. It is the process by which we are lifted to higher things.
Pain has one useful function to perform. An ache or a twinge of conscience means something is wrong. Human life would have passed out of the picture a long time ago without pain--physical, mental, moral. The higher up we go in the order of life, the more keenly sensitive to pain we become.
—J. Wallace Hamilton, St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, Fla., March 30, 1936.
Suffering and glory are always associated in the work of God.
—J.R. Pratt, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, March 9, 1900.
From the bed of suffering may come forth character purged and purified in the fire of sorrow. ... Pain and frustration strike in the guise of evil, but the man of faith, serene in his trust of God, will find new strength and enriched meaning in life in struggles which overwhelm unbuttressed spirits.
—Theodore F. Savage, New York Times, New York, New York, June 24, 1935.
The truth of a man's character is affirmed not so much by what he says, as by what he is willing to suffer to profess his faith.
—Fulton J. Sheen, North-Central Louisiana Register, Alexandria, La., March 2, 1956.
Suffering is the mother of glory and glory is the mother of joy. The selfish man will find that the world's combine of selfishness is too great for his competition. The man who loves his fellowmen will find the combined love of earth and heaven exhausting their abundant resources for his happiness.
—J.H.O. Smith, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, March 14, 1901.
Many of the deepest and worthwhile joys come out of poignant sorrow. There is no painless edict in the deep things of life. Suffering tests us as does nothing else. We do not know ourselves nor our friends until we have suffered, for we are tested and our friends are tested by suffering.
—George W. Truett, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, Oct. 1, 1923.
Pain is everywhere. It comes suddenly like a flash of lightning. It comes gradually and is barely noticed until it begins to throb with intensity that cannot be ignored. It is self induced. It is by accident. Pain comes to the innocent as well as to the deserving; to the young as to the old.
Is there any reason for man's pain? Does it serve any good purpose? Why must there be disease and death? Why must the innocent suffer?
God created man with a free will. It allows man to choose evil as well as good. Man's activity induces the ability to make mistakes. Mistakes often result in pain. The person who misuses his body will eventually pay the price of pain.
Suffering may also be due to another's wrong doing. A child may suffer abuse or misuse at the hands of parents. It is not the child's fault that he doesn't get enough to eat and suffers malnutrition. Nor is it the child's fault that he has a birth defect resulting from narcotic abuse by one of his parents. Yes, the innocent frequently suffer.
At times suffering is due to the nature of our universe. It is a system of law and order. Everything in it is faithful. Without the uniform laws of nature the world would not operate.
These laws of uniformity which bring about good may be misused and bring about destruction. The same fire which provides heat for cooking and warmth for living will burn our houses and destroy our lives.
Man usually assumes that all human suffering is evil. Is that true? Man's primary purpose is to honor and glorify God. Evil is that which takes man away from God. Good is that which brings man back to God.
This standard allows for the viewing of events differently. The product of pain is dependent upon one's attitude toward it. Does pain draw us closer to God, or does it make us rebel against Him? ...
Pain is here to stay. Since that cannot be denied, why not use it to our advantage? Allow it to draw you closer to God. He is able too make good come from tragedy.
—David Holland, Beauregard Daily News, DeRidder, La., June 10, 1988.
Jesus taught His followers that they would suffer. His followers did suffer. They still suffer. We are not "carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease."
But someone has correctly said that "most of our troubles never happen." It is also true that much of our suffering is worry about what we fear may happen but does not happen. I do not think the Lord is pleased with our worrying. There are 168 hours in each week--how many of those hours do we allocate to worry?
Sometimes we bring suffering on ourselves and sometimes intentionally or unintentionally, others bring it on us. Take the illustration of the man--a narcotic addict or an alcoholic--who met Jesus at the boat landing in the Gadarene country. (Luke chapter 8.) The man brought on himself the awful habit from which he was suffering and at the same time he brought awful suffering to his wife and children or his father and mother. He also brought trouble and suffering to the police whose handcuffs he "plucked asunder." In fact, when Jesus healed and saved this man He relieved the worry of a whole community. If we are suffering, let's examine and see if we are being "pricked by thorns from a tree of our own planting," as was the man in the Gadarene country.
Many times we are not able to find the cause or source of our troubles and suffering. They just come upon us, sometimes gradually and sometimes suddenly and unexpectedly. We cannot figure out or understand why we suffer.
But no matter what the nature of our suffering may be nor how it may come, there is pointed out to us in 1 Peter 4:12-13:
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, whey his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
—Thomas Martin Kennerly, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, July 27, 1956.
When tragedy or suffering strikes there comes to the individual a sense of shock, a sense of isolation, a feeling of aloneness and then a genuine expression of grief.
It is surprising that this most common of all human experience finds most of us so strangely unprepared. Someone has said that the greatest heresy of our day is the refusal to believe that death is a reality. Perhaps we could state that another of the great heresies of our generation is the refusal to believe that pain, tragedy or suffering can ever happen to you or to me.
It is strange that this experience which happens to everyone should find most of us so ill-prepared for its coming.
Now it would seem obvious that we should prepare for tragedy and suffering. We spend a great deal of time preparing for old age insurance, retirement, savings and investments. But we spend virtually no time at all for this experience which we know will come unexpectedly.
Peter, in his first epistle, said, "Do not be surprised at the fiery trial which is in your midst," or which may be translated, "which will be in your hearts." He insisted that the Christian not be surprised at trials, trouble, suffering and difficulty which would come to them.
How can we, then, prepare for the tragedy of suffering which we will face?
First of all, we must recognize that some suffering is retributive. Such is the normal result of wrongdoing which may be deliberate or which may be accidental. There is a normal result of wrongdoing which is a part of the warp and woof of the scheme of things as they are.
The area of medicine is a good example of this. Why do people get sick? We get sick because a germ or virus enters the body. We may not know how it enters, but a person becomes sick because it does enter and, entering, finds the body unable to throw it off. There is a definite relationship between the entrance of the germ or virus into the body, the condition of the body and the resultant effect.
Sometimes a person says that God causes this. Actually, disease is brought about by certain definite factors (not fully understood) which gradually are being traced out by the medical profession.
Thus some suffering is definitely retributive, either on the basis of moral or spiritual wrong or on the basis of physical wrong. Something happens, either deliberately or accidentally.
A second truth is that the Christian suffers on a different level and more intensively than a person who is not a Christian. Sometimes a person says, "Why does this happen to me? I am a Christian." We should rather find him saying, "Why doesn't more happen to me because I am a Christian?"
Jesus went through certain types of suffering and tragedy simply because one who lives a more perfect life finds a corresponding antagonism to him. Jesus was put to death because He lived a perfect life.
This is what the scripture means when it says, "Beware when all men speak well of you." No man ought to invite enemies. But if the person who is a presumed follower of God discovers that all men appreciate him, then it means that he has not been firm enough in his basic convictions to cause people whose viewpoint was different to oppose him. This is part of every Christian's experience.
"Must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free?
"No, there's a cross for everyone, and there's a cross for me."
We have sometimes thought that the hallmark of faith is the ability to move mountains. You know what a hallmark is. It is the mark on the paper seen as you lift it up between you and the light which shows that it is a certain type of bond paper.
Now the hallmark of faith is not the ability to move mountains. The hallmark of faith is the ability to suffer--to know how to handle suffering. The unobservant person may never see it, but it is woven into the texture of the life of the Christian.
Ability to handle suffering is a test of one's faith. Peter says that it is like gold that is tested in fire. (1 Peter 1:7.) Gold may be mixed with wood or other debris, but in a fire the other things disappear and the gold remains gold. This is what happens to the person who suffers. The true essence of faith remains.
If the person is not able to handle the suffering, then this reveals that his faith is deficient. Genuine faith expresses itself always when it is potentially in danger of being destroyed.
How, then, shall we behave during hours of actual suffering? Peter suggested three things. The first of them is "Do right." (1 Peter 4:19.) Let none of you in the midst of suffering do wrong. "Let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or a wrongdoer or a mischief maker." (1 Peter 4:15.) That is, in the time of suffering continue to do right.
A second thing is "continue to trust." (1 Peter 4:19.) The Psalmist wrote, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."
He did not use the figure of a cave. He thought of walking through the valley as a depression with a beginning and an end but still a valley. In such a valley of dark shadows he could gratefully say, "I will fear no evil."
I remember standing with a man whose beloved wife had just died. This person used words something like this: "I know it is all right, but it is so hard." That is the inevitable combination. "It is hard but I know it's right. I know that God will not permit wrong in the final analysis to prevail. It is hard but I still trust."
The experience which many of you have had and will have is the experience of suffering. I pray that each may learn how to prepare for this most personal experience. When the shock comes and the sense of being utterly alone is yours, may you have established such a relationship with the Heavenly Father that though you walk with difficulty and with trembling, you shall walk with God through the valley of whatever shadow may be yours.
—William E. Denham, Jr., Houston Post, Houston, Texas, July 7, 1956.
Frequently we feel that all suffering is bad. This could not be further from the truth. There are some vital and distinct values of suffering.
It is admitted that unnecessary and brutal suffering should be destroyed as soon as possible. However, there is suffering which seems to be absolutely necessary to the life that we know.
If we shield a person from all the suffering of life, we prevent him from growing up and becoming a mature individual. Christian character cannot develop without the necessary suffering. The greatest things in life may be free, but it seems that only those who have suffered are able to receive and appreciate and use them for the greatest benefit. ...
Life and suffering are so interwoven that it seems that one cannot be destroyed without destroying the other. Any mature person can tell you that all suffering is not bad.
Suffering makes us stop. Many of us are dashing to and fro without much meaning and purpose, and when we begin to suffer, it certainly stops us in our tracks and this is good.
The most perfect machine we know will burn itself out quickly if it is run too fast. So it is with the human body and the human mind.
Suffering makes us stop and think we have time too consider, to slow down, and to re-evaluate our living.
Suffering also jars us into the thought that we are human beings. We are not gods. We are not put here to live forever. We are a part of humanity. We often get to thinking that we are all-powerful, that we can do anything, that we can conquer life just by our own strength, but when we begin to suffer, we are reminded of our weakness and our dependence.
Again, suffering can strengthen our faith. When we have to lie flat on our backs, we look upward and this can remind us of a loving God who does control our lives and the world of which we are a part, and if we look upon our suffering with the right attitude, our faith can be strengthened.
Moreover, suffering can result in a spirit and an attitude that we did not know before. Many people come out of intense suffering with a gratitude for friends and loved ones and for the love of God.
We often do not realize how many wonderful people there are in this world until some tragedy strikes us and our friends come to our side to share with us in a fellowship of suffering.
In the midst of our suffering there shines a gratitude for life as it is, for friends, and for the love of God expressed in so many ways.
Suffering has brought many people to the place where they realize that there was a spiritual side to life. A person can cause you to suffer, but that person cannot dictate to you how you are going to react to your suffering.
You may be stripped of your clothing, of the necessities of life, of your loved ones, and of your country; but no one can steal your mind from you if you are determined to live by the spirit.
There is a freedom in the human soul that no one can take away from us unless we are willing for them to take it away from us. This is the realm of the spirit. It is that part of the self that was created by God.
Many people discover that they are indeed created in the image of God after they have suffered intensely. Physical pain and torture are terrible, but from the experience of many people, we learn that mental and spiritual suffering are much greater.
The physical is limited. The mental or the spiritual seems to be unlimited. Since suffering is a vital and necessary part of life, we must find the proper attitude toward it, if we are going to be Christian and mature in our living.
Let us search for the real values of life and use suffering as a means to grow in the grace of God.
—Harold L. Hawkins, Baptist Hospital Echo, Alexandria, La., February 1960.
Suffering is one of faith's greatest challenges, but it is also one of faith's greatest opportunities. With the needle and thread of faith the Christian may use the raw materials of sorrow and tragedy to weave a beautiful garment of praise for the glory of God.
The grandest occasion that some of us may ever have to glorify God comes in the hour of stress and storm. For when everything is rosy and the pastures are green and the waters are still, and we say, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow," the world is likely to remark, "Why shouldn't you be thankful; everything is going your way!"
But when the shadows deepen and the clouds of trial begin to gather, we say through our tears, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord," then the world may very well admit, "There must be something to the Christian faith after all."
Only our faith can turn tragedy into triumph, can move us from the question mark to the exclamation point and transform every Calvary into an Easter Sunday. Such a victorious faith is available to every child of God.
The writer of Hebrews [Hebrews 10:32-39; 12:1-11; 13:13-14] is exhorting his readers to view their sufferings through the eyes of faith. Let's adjust our gaze accordingly.
Probably one of the reasons why the Hebrew Christians had failed to grow spiritually and become more involved in God's world mission was the threat of persecution. So the author urges them to recall how the Lord had sustained them in past troubles. "Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering." (Hebrews 10:32.)
The believer who is under the pressure of trial would do well to remember God's past deliverances. Often from burdened hearts, I have heard words like these: "This is a terrible experience, but God has seen me through my trouble before. I know He will not forsake me now."
"For ye have need of patience," the writer insists in verse 36. In the Greek text "patience comes first in the sentence, so it is emphatic. It means an "abiding under." It was used for the quality which enabled an athlete or soldier to withstand all his opponent could throw against him and still have reserve strength with which to fight back to victory.
In this matchless Greek term is none of the passiveness or resignation suggested by the English word for "patience." Instead the biblical word represents the very positive and active idea of steadfast perseverance. Such "patience" enables us to do "the will of God." (vs. 36.)
Hardships will bring out the best in us, if the best us there! The Lord uses trouble to develop this quality of perseverance within us. "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:3-4.)
Faith's view of suffering tells us to "look in" and draw from the persevering power of His indwelling presence.
As runners in this "race" we are to be aware of the "witnesses" who ran before us. However, we must also be aware of the fact that from His throne at the Father's right hand we have the supreme Witness, Jesus Christ our Lord. As an athlete should not play to the stands but run for his coach, so we should have the eyes only for Jesus who is "the author and perfecter of our faith." (Hebrews 12:2.)
Weigh the options: suffering and victory over against ease and failure. Jesus endured complete the "contradiction" (bitter hostility and grievous opposition) of sinners. With Him as our example we can overcome, no matter how great our afflictions may be.
Sometimes suffering results from our own wrongdoing. Then, again, suffering can come from natural causes. Still, the author of Hebrews suggests it may happen because of the "chastening of the Lord." (Hebrews 12:5.)
"Chastening" translates a word which means to train a child. A father chastens his own children when they disobey. It is not simply to punish them, however, but to discipline or teach them to be obedient or to behave correctly. It should be done in love and not anger. In fact, not to discipline a child is an act of hate, not love (see Proverbs 3:11-12).
—William C. Everett, Baptist Standard, Dallas, Texas, Aug. 11, 1982.