4 Things Christians Should Do When Suffering

Like the apostle Paul, I have a thorn in my flesh. It’s not identical. But it’s similar.

In the spring of 2012, I severely strained my right achilles tendon. It’s been over three years and it’s still not healed. After ten steps of walking, I feel the pain.

Tolerable, yes. But it still hurts.

I’m in the middle of my twenties. These are supposed to be the years brimming with fun-filled activities. These are supposed to be the years where I have the most energy. “These are the prime years for sports and recreation,” they say. Sports? I love sports. But I can’t even jump or run. I can’t participate in some of my favorite activities in life. And it feels like its been this way forever.

Will it ever go away?

I was forced to decline playing in a summer softball league with close friends. This makes two years in a row.

I see the guys at the gym playing basketball. I remember when I used to play. I ran up and down the court. I laughed with friends. I worked up a good sweat. But that was only back when I was able. “Those were the days,” I often think to myself.

Nostalgia, you’re back. Oh, how I did not miss you.

I went to see a physical therapist over the winter in hopes of getting healed. I did all of the exercises he suggested for months on end. I really did. I’ve taken the supplements. I’ve done the stretching. I’ve taken extended breaks. I’ve done everything in my power to get healed, and it hasn’t happened.

I’m starting to wonder — God, is this my fault?

I have a thorn in my flesh. And it’s not going away.

How about you? Do you have an ailment that you’re dealing with? Do you know someone who is?

By God’s grace, these past few years for me have not been wasted. I’m sure many of you have gone through similar circumstances (if not worse).

In hard seasons, here’s four things Christians should remember:

1) Learn to be content in Christ. Paul said he had to learn to be content in Christ (Philippians 4:11). What the average reader might not know is that Paul was in prison when he wrote those words. He had no wife. No kids. Even his ministry was stripped from him. Paul had to learn to find his contentment in Christ, not in people or circumstances. It was something that he had to learn; it wasn’t something he was born with. Contentment is not a spiritual gift. It has to be learned, and it is primarily learned in the school of suffering. You know, it could be that God is trying to teach that same lesson to you.

2) Remember God’s goodness. I think Spurgeon said it best: “Christian, remember the goodness of God in the frost of adversity.” That was coming from a man who faced an indescribable amount of depression. In hard seasons, we must remember that God is ordaining all of our circumstances for our good, even when it feels like everything is working out for our bad. While you pray through your miseries, don’t forget to also ponder God’s mercies.

3) Reflect on eternity. I confess that I think about eternity far more in hard seasons than good ones. One of the blessings of suffering is that it usually forces our hearts and minds away from wordiness and into eternity, where things will be far, far different. No more sleepless nights. No more anxiety. No more depression. No more pain. No more sorrow. Our bodies will be perfect. Indeed, everything will be — after all, we’ll be in paradise.

4) Comfort other Christians. Christian, don’t waste your suffering. In God’s providence, be looking out for other fellow Christian sufferers and comfort them with the comfort you’ve received from God. Paul tells us to do so (2 Corinthians 1:4). One of the best ways to get through your suffering is to help someone else out with theirs.

I’m seeing a doctor now. We’ve met twice. I’m optimistice more than ever that I’ll eventually get healed. But only time will tell. Whether I get to run by the end of the summer, or never get to run again, I know that God has decreed all that comes to pass. I know that one day the pain will be gone. I know that our God is always good.

Jesus is enough for me. And he is enough for you, too.

Questions and Comments: And what about you? Know someone that you feel needs to read this? Do you have a thorn in your flesh? Feel free to share and post any comments below.

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21 thoughts on “4 Things Christians Should Do When Suffering

  1. I often tell people who are unexpectedly derailed that we ought to look at illness and injury as a God-arranged vacation. We don’t want the vacation, but God knows it’s time for us to power down, re-orient our perspectives, rest. And He knows best.

    We want to do five million important things but God knows the best use of our efforts. There is no wasted time in His plan.
    I try to find out what God has in mind for me to do at these times. And to make good use of the circumstances God has given me.

    BTW I have a chronic illness and need to be very careful with my energy and to pace myself…in a crazy life that’s telling me to go,go,go.

  2. I used to run track, but because of plantar issues I no longer can. I have found other activities to replace it: hiking, backpacking, swimming. I used to feel sorry for myself for not being able to run anymore, then I saw some of the kids who were swimming because it was the only activity that got them out of their wheelchairs. It’s all about perspective.

  3. Thank you for your post. So many people are suffering physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Your four points to remember are a great help!

  4. So true, God is God our suffering is only momentarily if we take time to acknowledge Him in all our ways. He will direct. When I turn my pain into a praise the worry of waiting turns to peace and trusting Him to do only what He can according to His plan. They that wait upon the Lord… In the wait I find myself serving.

    1. Hey Pandora – That’s so true. Like you (and Paul) say, our afflictions are only light and momentary (2 Corinthians 4:16). Amazing that Paul used the word “light” in light of ALL he endured!

  5. That’s the goodness of God. I too have similar pain in my foot a result of landing on a needle and having it break in half. One half stayed in my foot. Talk about sheer pain. I screamed and cried at the same time. Removing it was torture. Because the pain took a while to subside I messed up my knee, now the pain in my knee is excruciating. That should be the worst of it, but I have no health insurance, so I have to find ways to manage my pain.

    I have a dear friend that suffers from diabetes, has to go to dialysis three times a week, and has very limited mobility. I don’t believe she has had a day without pain since she started dialysis. God has bestowed endless grace on her to handle her illnesses. When I see her, I see God’s unending mercy and my pain pales in comparison.

    All four points you mention is what God showed me. It’s hard for us to be content, to find contentment…when society screams out “Hey, you need this!” Someone is always selling a bill of goods, selling us stuff we don’t need, don’t want and can’t afford. We are a society that now worships the creation (body) rather than the Creator. The trend, to satisfy every human urge.

    The last several years the Lord has been slowly stripping away the worldly influences that once held me captive. It has not been a pleasant journey, but a journey nonetheless, a journey that has led to experiencing God on His terms. I know that’s what God wants for all His children…to experience His Fatherly love. It’s sad, that like God stopped Paul in his tracks, to get His attention…He has to do that with many of us. We are to busy, to focused on the noise around us, to hear the whisper of loving Father calling our name.

    We all have our thorn to bear…we need to learn to surrender all into the arms of the One that holds us close, and that no one can snatch away.
    As you say, Jesus is enough for me.
    Be blessed and like Rich Mullins always said, be God’s.

  6. Hello David. I just started following you and I am looking forward to reading your blog posts. Thanks for sharing about your life here. I want to share a bit of mine here in the hopes that it helps you. 🙂 I have been off work for over 6 years now recovering from severe burn-out. I was so exhausted, I could hardly walk down our tiny little hallway and I had to lay down for 2 hours before I had the strength to take a deep breath. This lasted for a few years. I prayed and prayed for healing, but for 3 years there was precious little progress. I too thought I’d be disabled for the rest of my life. I sought God as to how to recover from all the damage I’d done to my body. He showed me how to heal much faster. I went on a vegan diet and now (3 years later) I am almost normal. 🙂 Every 3 months, I could look back and see huge progress. That is still happening. If you are interested in reading more of my story, I have a blog under “Health Matters” at sistersreachout.com where I give details about how I recovered and I believe that is the same one where I recommend some great books too. I have found this super cleansing diet/lifestyle to be a huge aid in helping my body to heal. God bless you as you continue to believe for your own healing. 🙂 Debbie

  7. Hello David. Me again. Just want to edit what I said up above. The article I mentioned IS under Health Matters which you will find in the category “cloud” on my blog page, BUT the article is actually titled “Be Strong Like a Gladiator, Slim Like a Rose”. I also wrote one on how I recovered from severe burn-out. You may find some helpful stuff there too. ANY “body burden” will slow down ANY healing in your life. There are other resources listed there as well. I have done a significant amount of reading from health experts that have helped many “hopeless cases”. I know you will be encouraged by what you find there. God bless. 🙂

  8. Hello David! I found your blog when you liked one of your posts. I love how you share a part of your story on this post, and I just want you to know that although you might be suffering over that strain you have for years, God has used you in another way. You might not be physically active right now and you miss the things that you always do, but you have inspired many people with your God-given talent in writing. 🙂 May that fact console and encourage your more to keep on going. I hope someday you’ll be healed and finally embrace the outdoor activities that you missed. God bless you. Keep on writing. ^_^

  9. Energetic in your twenties! That takes me back. Can just about remember them! Last year I woke up and couldn’t walk. I mean – for three weeks only managed shuffling pigeon steps! So weak with a virus that kept me off sick for three months. Finally went back to work full time this year. Highlight of last year – sometime in Dec I was out for a walk it started to rain and I actually RAN. First time I’d run in months. Never thought I would. So be be encouraged David. Bless your heart -Reuben

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