…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14
Benjamin Kisoni, a Congolese pastor:
My experience has convinced me that our lives are not merely the product of chance, and nor are our sufferings. We will always find it difficult to understand how different events in our lives intertwine to accomplish something that is beyond our understanding. But that is the way God works. The suffereings that touch us are not some form of evil that has slipped through his hands to fall upon us. There will always be things for which we will have no explanation as long as we are in this body. But one thing is true. God uses everything that happens to us for a purpose.
The events of life can overwhelm us to the point that death may seem more appealing than life. This is because suffering often limits our vision. It makes us feel that we are alone, so that we withdraw into ourselves and think only for ourselves.
Even if others reject us or we isolate ourselves because of what we are going through, our human value remains intact. We may no longer be economically productive, but it would be unfair to limit our importance to one aspect of productivity. Suffering does not render us useless. Life is more than material possessions. The pain should help us understand that we are an important link in the social chain, in spite of the suffering Therefore, we should not reject those who suffer, but consider their condition as an opportunity to show them our love. Even though at times some may think that they have become an unnecessary burden. God still has things he wants to accomplish in their lives through us, as well as in our lives.
We are not required to accept pain stoically as if we are indifferent to it or do not feel it. Nor whould we be fatalistic and assume that we are destined to suffer. If we play down the pain of suffering, we will not discover its purpose. And if we believe that our own strength and determination are enough to help us confront suffering, we are pretentious and setting ourselves up for disappointment.
Instead, we should look at suffering from the same perspective as our Creator ( although in the present our eyes may be veiled so that we do not see everything) From the moment we recognize that God is bigger than us and stronger than our suffering, we will know that we can confide in him. We can capitalize on what happens to us to get the maximum benefit out of it. There is nothing weird about that: a creature is always in need of its creator on whom it depends.
Sometimes I felt that I must have failed God in some way and was punished for that. I began to feel guilty as I reviewed my past life, looking for all the cases where I have done something of which God would not approve. Again and again I asked for forgiveness for sins I had already confessed, hoping that this would end the threats of the enemy and allow me to go home. I felt I was becoming useless to God and that was why he wanted to get rid of me, leaving me at the mercy of my enemies.
I tried to rewind my memory to see if I could uncover some forgotten sin that might be the root cause of my troubles. I would spend hours weighing a single incident to determine whether what I did was good or bad. I could no longer tell whether some of my moral convictions in the past were commendable or reprehensible.
Like most people, I was familiar with the idea of cause and effect, the principle that nothing happens without a cause. That is why many people regard suffering, especially when it is atrocious and protracted, as a punishment for some evil that has been done. Consequently, we tend to reject those who suffer. Few are willing to share in their pain. There is an implicit and explicit belief that the person suffering is responsible for their fate and is facing the consequences of their misdeeds.
There are certainly some sufferings that are consequences of our misconduct. But not all. The principle of cause and effect can be devastating to those who bear no responsibility for their own suffering. Some endure afflictions that are not directly traceable to any misconduct on their part.
Something else to think about: if we think that our unhappiness is in proportion to our bad deeds, why don’t we also think that our happiness is in proportion to our good deeds? Things are not simple. Not all happiness or unhappiness is a result of what we do. And even when sufferers bear some responsibility for their sufferings, they should be shown compassion (Job 6:14).
I agree with Philip Yancey that the best question we should ask in the face of suffering is not why it has come but what purpose it has come. It makes very little difference to the person who is suffering to know why they are suffering – it won’t change the situation much. Instead we should focus on what God can do for them in their situation.
Suffering is a sign that something is wrong with this world. One day all suffering will come to an end and no one will remember it anymore. Today we can limit suffering and fight against suffering, but we can’t totally eliminate it by our own efforts. Nor is there any vaccine to inoculate us against suffering. Even those who are not suffering themselves today are always exposed to suffering in some way or the other. Our strength lies in our ability to accept adversities, to mature through them, and to find meaning in them. We can even regard suffering to a rite of passage we have to go through in order to move us to a far better life, a life which nobody can interfere with to divert it from its normal course, a life without end.
I have found my victory in the assurance of God’s presence with me and in his support in times of distress. This assurance has strengthened my hope and given meaning to my life. Without this assurance and hope, my suffering would become a loss and would not contribute to my growth. It is here that the question “God, where are you” calls for another question that appeals to everyone’s conscience: “Where am I in relation to God in the midst of suffering?” Our attitude during suffering will depend on how we respond to the second question.
… Therefore, we should spare ourselves trouble by not letting our emotions dictate our behaviour when painful events are beyond our understanding. Otherwise, we might blame others and diminish ourselves. Suffering can also lead us to destroy ourselves physically, morally and spiritually. We can avoid this if we make God our only refuge.
Instead of letting suffering make us revolt against God, it should motivate us to get closer to others who suffer and who need us. We all need each other. My own sufferings have given me a deep sense of compassion. Whenever I meet someone who suffers or causes others to suffer, my heart is touched and I put myself in the shoes of the victim. I understand what it means to suffer, and I try as much as I can to keep this understanding active.
I thank God for my sufferings. He had made himself known to me by them, and through them he has allowed me to comfort others. My life is a living testimony to God’s love, faithfulness and intervention in the life of thse who hope in him.
To him be glory forever!
Source: Benjamin Kisoni, God Where are you?, 2012 Hippo Books,
pg 66, 67, 71, 72,95,99
War robbed him and his wife and children of all they possessed. Living by Christian principles brought them abuse rather than praise. Fighting for justice for his assassinated younger brother made him a marked man. At each step in his long journey, he brought each situation to the Lord … and shares what he learnt about God and himself in his book – God, where are you?.
1 Peter 5:10,11 (NIV)
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:9-11 (MSG)
… So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever.
It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.
by 林弟兄, bro Lim
February 27, 2015
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