Ongoing pain and suffering is hard. My wife and I have wrestled with her chronic pain for five years now. Everyone suffers somehow. It might be chronic pain, cancer, broken relationships, disability or the struggle against besetting sins. It’s hard to live in a world of futility and brokenness. We groan for the day when it is all made right (Romans 8:18–25).
And yet, suffering seems to be one of the great instruments in God’s hands to continue to reveal to us our ultimate dependence on him and our ultimate hope in him, despite our circumstances. God is good to give us the greatest gift he can give us, which is more of himself. And oftentimes he must take something away to help us trust him alone, even if at times it feels like we’ve received a death sentence (2 Corinthians 1:8–11).
Suffering Highlights Dependence
Suffering does not ultimately create dependence; it highlights dependence. We are always utterly dependent, whether we know it or not. God is good to us to continue to remind us, so that we don’t run after idols that might seem better and more reliable than him in the moment. One way God jogs our memory and preserves our joy in him in the midst of suffering is through one another. It’s important that we walk through suffering in community with other believers who can point us to Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 1:11, Paul says that he wants many to join in praying for him so that, as God sustains him, God will get more glory. Paul knows sharing suffering and bearing each other’s burdens gives God glory. It’s humbling to let people in on our weaknesses, but it serves to highlight God’s powerful sustaining grace.
Strength in Weakness
Ongoing pain and suffering tends to isolate us from one another. We get sick of being “the sick one” and tired of being “the one who is always worn out.” We don’t like revealing our weakness. But God receives glory when we let others in to see his strength in our weakness. God receives glory when we don’t act like we have it all together, but instead admit that God is holding us together through the gospel of his Son, the ministry of his Spirit and the prayers of his people.
A less remembered part of suffering together as believers is the way those who are suffering can comfort others in deep and unique ways. Ongoing pain and suffering tends to turn our focus inward on ourselves. It’s so constant that it begins to consume and color everything we do—always living in a protective stance.