How should a Christian Respond to Suffering and Trials?

by Dr. Koay Chuan Lek

The year 2011 has been a year that saw the death of several members of the church and loved ones.  The list of Christians taken ill is longer than in previous years.  Add to that civil unrest, wars in several regions around the world and our faith in God could be challenged.

In the book of Job, we learned of two ways a man and his wife could react and respond to trials.  Job lost everything he had: his children, his wealth and he was smitten with boils from the sole of his feet to the crown of his head and taunted by his wife.  Not only did he lose everything he had, but he was clinging dearly on to his life.

Most will agree with Job’s wife who said, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse (renounce) God and die.”  Job’s response was, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job. 2:7-10).

God approved of Job’s response. Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”  (Job 1:8)

Again in Job 2:3,  “Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.”

What a great honour to be trusted by God. Job was a man who was perfect, respectful of God and refrained from evil and held fast to his integrity and faith in God (Job 1:1 KJV).  Was Job rich and wealthy?  Yes, he was.  He had seven sons and three daughters.  His substance was “seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East.” Job 1:3.  By today’s standard, he’s a billionaire.

Was Job healthy? Certainly he was.  He was feasting with his children every day and he rose early in the morning (Job 1:4-5).  Sick men do not feast but observe special diets and rest on their back most of the time.  What a great encouragement and example we can learn from Job. What about Job’s wife’s reaction and response to suffering?  Job called her a foolish woman (Job 2:10).

As Christians we ought to follow Job’s example and not his wife’s,  trusting that God will deliver us, knowing that He allow us to go through trials and suffering to prove our faith.

We need to heed the reminder in 1 Peter 1:6-9, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”

When the trials and suffering get tough and unbearable as in the case of Job, the holy scriptures encourage us to “gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” 1 Peter 1:13-15.

And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”  1 Peter 1:17-19.

Often times our faith waiver because we are human, of flesh and blood.  But we can be encouraged by God’s love for us and how He made “Jesus …a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.  10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Heb. 2:9-11.

So what then is the purpose of our suffering and is it worth going through it?  Paul the apostle told us of the promise of our future glory in Romans 8:18-39.

“18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;

We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So brethren, how should a Christian respond to suffering?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  Would we  not be more than conquerors through Him who loves us?