In a bible study, my group mate once asked: Why do we have to suffer for us to know God? Why do we remember God only when we are in need?
My answer: Because it takes hot water to bring out the taste in teabags. Because when everything is bright and rosy, I am self-sufficient. I can do it alone. I don’t need God. Thank you, God but I can manage. But when I am at the end of my rope, when there is nothing to hang on to except God, when I don’t know what else to do and how else to face it, then God, please, please help me!
God allows sufferings in my life to bring out the taste in me; to show forth His glory – that He can do beyond what I can ever imagine. He walked me through the valley of the shadow of death.
When my dad was sick, I experienced how painful it was to love. At one point, he was so sick, he was pooping through his mouth. Standing by his bedside, looking helplessly as the nurse placed something for him to vomit into, seeing her wiped brownish stuff from his mouth, it breaks my heart. I realised how it must have pained God so to see His Son suffering on the cross. He loves me so much He sacrificed His one and only begotten Son to die such a painful and shameful death. In Hokkien, love (爱 – thiah) and pain (痛 – thiah) sound alike. No greater love than this that Jesus bore the pain to lay down his life for me. John 15:13
We are into Lent season. Unlike Christmas, with its joyous and festive moods of celebrating the birth of Jesus, Lent is a time for deep contemplation on the suffering and death of Jesus. Lent is a time to reflect on and thank God for the dark shadows and deep valleys of life.
How then do we respond to suffering? What is the good of suffering?
In suffering, we get a glimpse of how Jesus suffered for us.
In suffering, we share in his death – dying to self, dying to sin, giving up all in this world that we hold dear.
In suffering, we share his comfort. When I am sad, Jesus comforts me. He said: In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
In suffering, we have hope… hope that all sufferings will pass, that sufferings bring us closer to God. We have hope that one day, Jesus will return and we will live with him forever in the presence of God – where there is no more pain, no more night and no more tears. Rev. 21:4