Dr. Jeremiah Johnston broaches the sensitive topic of suffering in his message. “All of us have had experiences of suffering in our lives,” he says. “How do we even begin to understand all the promises that God has made to His people, and then we see all the problems God’s people experience?”
He points to Paul’s heart outpouring in 2 Corinthians 1. Paul writes in verses 8 and 9, “We do not want you to be uniformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.”
Johnston says the takeaway for modern believers is:
- I can and should be honest about my problems and pain
- I come to know God better through my pain and suffering
- My response to suffering determines my future
- I do not suffer in vain; God’s plan and blessings are not cancelled by my trials
“God works in different ways; it’s our job to trust Him,” Johnston says. “Only when our circumstances exceed our ability to handle them do we really trust God.” As Paul concludes in the passage, “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”
Johnston continues the conversation with Dr. Craig Evans, the John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins at Houston Baptist University. Evans, a distinguished scholar and author, contrasts the pre-Christian and post-Christian worlds. “Where faith takes hold, societal standards go up. That’s the change that Jesus brought,” he says.
While the Bible does not promise deliverance from every dark situation, it does offer assurance of God’s presence, the two men conclude. Ultimately, suffering with the knowledge of God’s goodness and in dependence upon him is more meaningful than living on one’s own apart from His divine grace.