Recently I attended the memorial service of a dear friend. He was young – only 55 years old! His wife, now a widow, and two young adult children are now bereft of the man they adored as husband and dad.

My first thought was, “No one should die nor should any woman become a widow in their mid-50’s! That’s the PRIME of their lives!” However, God is sovereign and sees a greater plan, which, as much as we hate it, includes suffering, death, grief, agony, etc.

Suffering stinks and I dare say that I am not alone in that sentiment. What would happen if we had a choice to eliminate all suffering? Would the world be a better place, or worse?

In the midst of Job’s suffering, after he had lost all his children, his fortune, and his health, he cried out to God, “I am afraid of all my sufferings!” [Job 9:28 NKJV]

After the memorial service I wanted so much to swoop up my dear friend in my arms. I wanted to take away all her pain, all her grief, all her agony, all her question marks about what life would now be like financially, spiritually, and physically without her best friend in the whole wide world. But, as much as I want to do that, I can’t relieve her present suffering! Nor can I soothe her children, nor her parents, nor her in-laws.

Paul laid it out for us in Romans 8, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [Shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’” [Romans 8:35-36 NKJV] What a hopeless-sounding list!

However, Paul continues with a word of hope, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 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. [Romans 8:37-39 NKJV]

AHHH… the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord! Therein is our hope; our sustenance in suffering; our consolation amid trials; our joy in the midst of mourning.

Praise the Lord that He never asks those who walk with Him to trust Him for more than one moment, one hour, or one day, at a time. Jesus Christ paved the way for us to rejoice in suffering because of the ultimate joy set before us of being with Him forever.

It’s really a matter of perspective, isn’t it? We used to sing a chorus that gives us a good perspective for negotiating the suffering life inevitably brings our way. It holds a truth we can declare victoriously: “And step by step You’ll lead me, and I will follow You all of my days.” [Step By Step, Rich Mullins, 1986]

Peter, a disciple who faced much suffering, including a martyr’s death, gives us this perspective to adopt, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” [1 Peter 4:12-13]

Suffering stinks. But it is not “the end of the story.” We are promised it opens onto exceeding joy.