Who signs up for a workshop on suffering? No one. Yet most of us have experienced more mental, emotional, or physical hardship than we want to deal with.
Does life always hold happy endings for someone that follows Jesus?
In this life, you will encounter hardships that cause suffering in your mind, body, and especially in your emotions.
In fact, I’ve identified 5 different kinds of suffering in my life and in my clients’ lives.
And I also see these hardships expressed throughout the Bible, including the lives of those who fill our New Testament pages.
Five kinds of suffering
Usually, you will find a mixture of several types of suffering swirled together when facing hardship.
1) Suffering that you can’t avoid—responsibilities and obligations that complicate life, plus you also live in a fallen world with viruses, diseases, accidents, and dangerous weather, creatures, and food.
2) Suffering as a consequence of your own mistakes, failures, or choices.
3) Suffering inflicted on you by others.
4) Suffering caused by principalities and powers in unseen places.
5) Suffering that comes from doing good—serving people and God isn’t easy. You will suffer in some way.
Notice that God doesn’t zap you with hardship and suffering as a form of punishment, rejection, or judgment.
He will, however, use whatever kind of suffering you are experiencing for training in heart and life righteousness.
God never wastes any of your life experiences. He uses them for good in your life and in those around you.
What does training in heart and life righteousness look like?
I’m so glad you asked.
Identify why you are suffering
Start by thinking about your hardship and the 5 kinds of suffering mentioned above. Decide which ones apply to your situation. Write them down. (Remember, sometimes suffering is caused by a combination of several factors.)
Then find some words describing how you feel about this hardship.
Describing suffering with a word that fits your feelings helps you face and deal with your hardship. Suddenly, your feeling has a name, and that name holds substance.
For example, you might say, “I feel rejected.” Or, you might say, “This situation has confused me.”
Here are some ancient words from Scripture to jumpstart your word search for describing your emotions.
- Afflicted: ongoing negative situations
- Perplexed: confused, doubted, foggy brained
- Persecuted: hostility from others
- Struck down: lost relationships, failures, betrayal, unexpected negative consequences of your choices
Tap into your Source
Next, remind yourself that you aren’t going through this alone. Jesus has promised to be with you and in you. He has also given you the Holy Spirit to be your guide and counselor.
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what areas of rightness or righteousness He wants to grow in your life.
Here are some examples:
The best description of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13. This God kind of love will work in any situation you face. The hard part is recognizing that you need the power of the Holy Spirit to apply it amid hardship and suffering.
The gracious tolerance of others’ faults and failures or the disappointments they have caused you (see Ephesians 4:2).
4) Endurance and Resistance
The continuing energetic resistance to hostile forces (see James 1:3-4; and 5:7; Romans 5:3-4; and 2 Thessalonians 3:5). When dealing with a human enemy, we will add love to the rightness of endurance.
Endurance may be needed when dealing with demonic powers, but we don’t use love toward demons. We resist or stand up to them and say, “No, not today, not on my watch. The kingdom of darkness has no place in my life. Be gone, in Jesus’ name.” Result: demonic powers flee (see James 4:7).
Whatever the Holy Spirit shows you, grab onto those goals. Then watch how He shows you the how and why of applying them daily.
The result will be the Spirit’s light — an illumination of understanding AND providing lightness or freedom from the heaviness in your soul and spirit.
Finding your aha moment
Aha moments are key for understanding how to handle suffering. Finding aha moments happen when you and the Holy Spirit are processing your hardships.
I suggest you dig deeper by grabbing your Bible and a notebook and do the following study to discover what the Spirit will highlight in your soul.
(1) Make a list of the kinds of suffering you can spot in the following Scriptures. Which ones can you relate to?
(2) Also write down any insights on how to respond to suffering that the Spirit reveals through these passages. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll find to apply to your own situation if you go slow and write these insights down.
You might also find this post helpful:
When Pain Threatens to Mess up Your Life: It takes courage to grow old. Especially when faced with chronic pain. Here are 5 ways to make sure that others see Christ in you through the pain.