*In this post I talk about identity, addiction, physical illness and mental illness*
Hey everyone and welcome back to Serenity in The Spirit. This is part 3 of the ‘Cast Your Cares’ series about suffering. I pray you have been able to learn something about some Christians’ ideas about why suffering exists despite our belief in an all-loving God. If not, check out Part 2. In Part 3, I plan to address the question ‘is suffering inevitable?’ and ‘is there anything we can do to avoid it?’
My initial responses to these questions respectively are yes and no. The Bible says:
“…in the world you will have tribulation…” – Jesus (John 16:33)
However when you delve below the surface, it is clear that we are sometimes the cause of our own suffering and therefore we are sometimes able to avoid it. Choosing to partake in sinful behaviour can lead us to suffering – the Bible advises us to not do certain things for a reason.
For example, the first commandment is about not worshiping other/false Gods. This is also associated with not putting anything/anyone before God (suggested in Matthew 6:24, 33). We should put nothing before God as He has created us and has given us our identity (I admit, this is much easier said than done. I often fail at this however I am trying to do better).
When we put other things before God we start to let them define us. Whether that be money, family, friends or even our church responsibilities. Unfortunately, whilst these things are not inherently bad, they are not permanent. When they change, so does the value we see in ourselves.
Now, I would like to again point out that not all suffering is our fault, sometimes we are facing the consequences from someone else’s actions or an illness (physical or mental). However during all of these sufferings, it is a good idea to turn to God and ask for help and/or healing. Sometimes God will heal us miraculously and sometimes He will work through other people to heal us (e.g. doctors, therapists, family, friends etc.). It is also worth noting that this can take varying lengths of time however, God can provide a solution for us. I spoke more about this in Part 1.
So, what about the biblical suffering that is promised because of ‘The fall’ or our parents? In families, we sometimes see different situations being passed on from generation to generation whether that be genetic illnesses or behavioural patterns. We might be struggling with similar situations to people in our families such as poverty or addiction. Whilst it can be incredibly difficult to rid ourselves of these types of suffering, nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). It is important to continually pray to God to ask Him to break generational chains. It is equally important that you also pray for God to help break your own sinful chains as well so that you do not pass certain struggles to your children.
Breaking our own sinful chains is impossible without Jesus. No one would sin if it didn’t feel good/wasn’t enjoyable/wasn’t easy but that does not make it right. Twice in the first book of Corinthians are we told that whilst we are able to do anything we want, not everything we do will be good for us (1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23). This means that just because it is possible for us to sin (free will), it doesn’t mean we should.
Personally, I believe this verse doesn’t just refer to sin, it is also applicable when making decisions about our general well-being. If we are spending a lot of time on social media comparing ourselves to the ‘glamourous’ lifestyle of others, it is likely to have a negative toll on our mental health and cause us to suffer if our lives do not seem as good.
Let’s suppose we are in a negative cycle, struggling with the same sin or negative behaviour over and over again and suffering because of the consequences. What can we do to reduce this suffering? Whether we have an illness such as addiction or just don’t see the harm, prayer is a great starting point. Pray and ask God to remove the illness and/or open your heart and mind so you are able to see the sin in the same way He does. He knows the effect of what we are doing, even if it is something we do not understand ourselves or see on the surface. Seeing sin in His light is more than knowing something is bad for us, it is seeing the consequences of that sin and not wanting to have to bear those consequences.
The Bible is also a great place to go when seeking advice or if we want to read examples of others who have gone through our same struggles, we can learn from their mistakes as well as their triumphs. In particular, you can look up specific topics you are interested in reading about in youth Bibles, study bibles and, of course, search engines.
Further guidance can be found in supportive family and friends who encourage us to seek God even when it seems impossible. These family members and friends can also intercede and pray asking God to help us. Whilst we should always seek God for ourselves, also having others pray for us can only be helpful.
Stopping sinful activity, poor decisions and the consequences they bring is not an easy task at all but I hope you can take courage from the multitude of resources at our fingertips to reduce our suffering even though we are unable to eradicate it completely.
Lord, I pray for the person reading this right now. I pray that as they continue with their daily lives they are more aware of Your presence and Your power. That they remember to call on You when they are struggling. I pray that we see our sin the same way You do and I pray that as a result there is a determination in our hearts to become more and more like Jesus. Thank You for the free-will You have given us. I pray that where we can, we use it for the good of ourselves, those around us and the world to prevent suffering where it is possible. For those that are suffering right now Lord, I pray that You break that chain. I pray in the mighty name of Jesus that the devil has NO place in their lives but that they seek You and find Your peace that transcends all understanding. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Song of the post: Imagine Me - Kirk Franklin