Difficulties - What to do when your suffering reaches the limits of your ability to endure

By: Rick Thomas - RickThomas.net

The heat in Carl’s life usually has more effect on him than the Gospel. Carl is like a lot of us. He can easily become more controlled by his troubles than the Savior he loves and professes to follow.

A few minutes with Carl and he has gone through the list of miserable things in his life.

He reminds you of what the Savior said about how our words reveal the true condition of our hearts (Luke 6:45). Carl’s words reveal frustration, impatience, anger, hopelessness, despair, cynicism, and being hurt by others.

As you’re empathizing, the Spirit is speaking to you about speaking to Carl about God’s grace and why he can’t seem to appropriate grace to his troubles. You’re being reminded by the Spirit how grace is perfectly sufficient for trials like what Carl is experiencing (2 Corinthians 12:9).

You pray about it and the LORD leads you to Hebrews 2:14-18.

The grumblers

The book of Hebrews was written for a group of people who were having a hard time bearing up under or persevering through their troubles. Like the Hebrews of the Old Testament wilderness wandering, they were easily tempted to throw in the towel.

When a person is heading down the path of despair it’s a clear sign he has forgotten the Gospel of promise (Philippians 1:6). God is a promise-keeping God. He will bring to a wonderful completion what He has begun.

The Israelites lost their God-centered perspective. They saw the power of God at the Red Sea, but were grumbling a few days later. How about you? How are you holding up through your circumstances?

One of the interesting notes about how the Hebrew writer is counseling these people is not by focusing on the heat they were going through, but on the Savior who is positioned to help them through their suffering.

When a person cannot or does not hold on to Jesus, then there is something broken down in his faith. The bigger issue for Carl is not what he is going through or even what others are doing to him. Carl is having a crisis in his faith.

Circumstances reveal functional faith

Though he’s a genuine believer, his intellectual understanding of God and his functional application of God are not the same. While there will always be a disparity in what we believe and what we practice, God’s grace should still be sufficient regardless of what we’re experiencing.

Carl is a problem-centered Christian, which does not mean he should never talk about his problems. He should talk about his problems in like manner to how we read many of the Psalms.

A typical Psalm will layout the problem, while working toward a God-centered, God-glorifying, and God-exalting conclusion. Carl rarely gets this far. He is typically stuck in the problem, which becomes layered by the next problem.

This means the suffering and death of Jesus should help us when we go through our suffering. He is our example as One who has been there and done that. He is the founder and the perfecter of our faith.

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. –Hebrews 12:2 (ESV)

The only way you can be helped by Jesus is by having faith (trust) in Jesus. This makes faith a big deal. A person who is not being objectively helped by Jesus is not demonstrating genuine functional faith in Jesus.

The Hebrew author was calling them to reorient their minds away from their problems and onto Christ.

Weak theology will lead to weak application in life. Weak theology will make weak, fearful, and struggling people. The author wants to make sure his readers have a strong view of Christ so they can be strengthened by their faith in Christ.

Jesus identifies with our suffering

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil. – Hebrews 2:14 (ESV)

Jesus is able to help us when we suffer and are tempted because He identifies with us in our suffering. He understands what we’re going through.

For God to become man in order to die on a cross for unloving people is not only the greatest act of love, but it’s the greatest act of personal suffering (John 15:13).

While some people may struggle with a God who would make a world which has evil in it, the more powerful thought is a God who made a world in which He would suffer more than anyone else.

Though there may not be a person in your life who understands what you’re going through, Jesus does. The real question is whether you’re looking for someone other than Jesus who understands you.

Jesus saves us from the root cause of our suffering

And deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. – Hebrews 2:15(ESV)

Not only does Jesus understand us, but He delivers us. He is able to help us when we suffer because He suffered and died to save us from the real cause of all our suffering. It is sin. I am not saying your suffering is because you have sinned.Maybe you did sin and you’re suffering for it. Maybe you didn’t sin, but you’re suffering due to someone else’s sin.

God did not come to our world to remove our suffering, but to remove our sin. Our suffering will be removed later (Revelation 21:4), but we are to overcome sin today (1 John 3:8-9). We see in this text how God’s way to destroy sin is through the door of suffering (Hebrews 2:14).

The point of His suffering and death was to defeat sin. This kind of Gospel work rendered powerless the strength of the devil–His suffering defeated sin. If our sinfulness grows during our suffering, then we have missed the point of His suffering, as well as our suffering (2 Corinthians 1:84:7-1012:7-10).

It was the death of Christ which defeated the one who had the power of death. Satan used to hold the fear of death over our heads. We were in bondage to our greatest fear, which was death.

The suffering and death of Christ removed this fear and now with our worst problem in life resolved by the power of the Gospel we are free to live in overcoming faith. This kind of faith empowers us to live victoriously regardless of what problem is thrown at us.

Jesus enables us to act redemptively toward others

 In order for you to be redemptive or restorative in a person’s life, there are two things you have to do.

  1. You must suffer.
  2. You must persevere through your suffering.

See also, John 12:24Philippians 1:291 Peter 2:21.

This is the part of the Gospel which is hard for many of us to understand–how our redemptive usefulness in this world comes through our personal suffering.

The most powerful and persevering way you can emulate the Savior in your life and be used by Him to serve others is by enduring suffering as modeled by Him. Your suffering will strengthen your faith, which will enable you to rescue others who are struggling with faith.

  1. How does the Savior’s suffering and death help you when you are going through your suffering?
  2. Does it strengthen and position you to help others who are captivated by sin?

The greatest temptation we face comes when the weight of our problems outweigh the weight of the Gospel in our lives. When a person is regularly overwhelmed by his week and/or his circumstances, then he is not living in the functional reality of the Gospel. This must be explored.

  1. Will it be grumbling or the Gospel?
  2. What circumstance or person in your life tempts you to grumble more than rejoice?

Jesus went to the cross to die for us. Does His love for you weigh heavier on your heart than the questions you have and the suffering you’re going through?

Because He did not give up, He positioned Himself to help us. We need this kind of persevering grace in our lives. If you are willing to identify with the Savior’s suffering and appropriate His grace to your suffering, you will be positioned to help people who do not have the victory over their suffering.