Christians can go through seasons of prolonged darkness and suffering. Boy, that is not something you hear preached often in the contemporary church! But it is true. The Bible (including the New Testament) is very honest about this subject. In addition to going through the normal struggles of living in a fallen world (i.e. economic issues, health issues, relationship issues, etc.), believers also experience some level of persecution, owing to their faith. We have a real adversary who is out to kill, steal, and destroy.
To be sure, the Christian life is NOT one of doom and gloom. Even through suffering, Christ brings peace, joy, hope, and contentment to our lives. No matter how bad our circumstances may seem, we must remember that Christ has dealt with our most significant problem– namely, sin–through His substitutionary work on the cross. We have an eternal inheritance to look forward to and, even now, we have the blessing of knowing Christ— and He is sufficient to meet our every need.
As a part of my morning devotions, I have been reading through the Psalms, which I find so comforting. It is evident through these songs, prayers, and petitions, that life can be up and down. In one psalm we read that “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken” (Psalm 62:2), and in another, we read “You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness” (Psalm 88:18). That’s life! We have ups and downs. There are times when we feel God is near, and other times when He seems a million miles away.
Psalm 88 has been a considerable encouragement to me in my recent season of darkness. It is written by Heman (not the cartoon superhero), who is a man of God that experiences one of these prolonged series of darkness. He feels abandoned and forsaken by God. Yet, we know that God had not forgotten this man. Heman was part of a guild of musicians that wrote many of the Psalms– which have been helping God’s people for centuries. Through this, we see that the Lord was actually at work in Heman’s life as He used him to create some of the greatest literary works known to man.
You may feel forsaken by God, but you are not! Jesus was forsaken on the cross so that we wouldn’t have to be. You may sense that you are experiencing utter-darkness, but again, remember that Jesus took on the worst darkness— the darkness of our sin— so that we could be reconciled to God. Wow! Life is full of the good, the bad, and the ugly, but in every season, Christ is enough. Stand firm in your faith, abide in Christ, and He WILL bring you through. All things are working together for our good, to conform us into the image of Jesus.
– Discussion Questions
1) Why do you think we here so little preaching on the subject of suffering in the contemporary church?
2) According to Psalm 88, how can we respond to dark times?
3) What role does the church play in our suffering?
4) We are on the other side of the cross from Heman. How should this change our perspective on suffering?