Suffering as an act of Prayer
God is a mystery, and perhaps nothing about God is more mysterious than why God seems to answer some of our prayers favorably, and not others. Why are some people healed and some are not? The truth is, we don’t know the answer. But I often hear people say that when they get to heaven, they’re going to ask God about this or that. I think that’s a good thought.
In the meantime though, here is one of the things the New Testament says about this – a word of encouragement from Second Corinthians.
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NLT)
...even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
The apostle Paul is a giant of our faith. He is a saint, an author of much of the New Testament – he is the example. And yet even he had the experience of hearing God say, “No” time and time again. None of us are exempt from human suffering. Surely every person has had the experience of disappointment in prayer. But notice what Paul says about these things. God did not take away the thorn in his side, but instead said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in [your] weakness.” When we are suffering, often the greatest remedy we can imagine is the removal of that suffering. But what if there is actually something greater?
What if the presence of God being with us is even better than the removal of that suffering?
We worship a God who is familiar with our suffering. Jesus died on the cross, an instrument not only for execution but also for torture. In his crucifixion, Jesus does not take away our suffering, but rather, he joins us in it. This is the mystery of God’s comfort for us. There will be a day when all tears, suffering, and pain are wiped away. Until then, God is with us. Let me say that again- until Christ returns, God. is. with. you.
Your presence, Lord, is as a salve for our souls. We pray that you would open our eyes to see you, open our ears to hear you, and open our hearts, that we would know with assurance that you dwell within us. In Christ you have come near to us, so let us be comforted. In Jesus’ holy name. Amen.