When Suffering Reaches the Limits of Your Endurance

When Suffering Reaches the Limits of Your Endurance

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

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Though his faith is genuine, the cares of this world overcome him easily. It doesn’t take long for you to realize this. After a few minutes with Biff, 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 actual condition of our hearts (Luke 6:45). Biff’s words show frustration, impatience, anger, hopelessness, despair, cynicism, and being hurt by others. You want to sympathize with him because you don’t want to blow off his concerns as though they don’t matter. They do matter. Much of what he says is legitimate: unkind people have done hurtful things to Biff.

As you’re sympathizing, the Spirit is “nudging” you about talking to Biff about God’s grace and why he can’t seem to appropriate that grace to his troubles. You’re being reminded by the Spirit how grace is entirely sufficient for trials like what Biff is experiencing (2 Corinthians 12:9).

But you’re concerned as to why he can’t seem to walk in God’s grace. You want to have a heart-to-heart discussion with him. You pray about it, and the Lord leads you to Hebrews 2:14-18.

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The Grumblers

The Hebrew writer wrote this book for a group of people who were having a hard time bearing up 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 beautiful completion what He has begun.

But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst (Exodus 17:3)?”

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?

The grace of God can be objectively measured in your life by your countenance, your confidence, and your words. Grumbling and complaining are two clues that you will hear from a person who is not holding up under his circumstances.

In such cases, the person has forgotten the gospel of hope, peace, and redemption. It is instructive to note how the Hebrew writer is counseling these people; notice the lack of focus on the heat in their lives. The focus is on the Savior who has positioned Himself to help them through their suffering.

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

The Lord does not call us to perfect faith, but He does expect us to appropriate His gifts in our lives to give us the ability to overcome the troubles in our world.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Overcoming faith is not what you predominately hear from Biff. He’s more whooped than wonderful. He’s more jerked around than joyful. He’s more cynical than conquering.

Biff is a problem-centered Christian, which does not mean he should never talk about his problems. He should speak about his difficulties in like manner as how we read many of the Psalms. A typical Psalm will lay out the problem while working toward a God-centered, God-glorifying, and God-exalting conclusion. Biff rarely gets this far. The problem captures him (Galatians 6:1), and then he layers the next disappointment on top of the preexisting issue.

Sound Theology Creates Sound Living

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food (Hebrews 5:12).

While you don’t want to be condescending to Biff, you feel compelled to take him back to the elemental principles of the gospel. I think sometimes we can assume too much with people—thinking they understand the basic applied concepts of the gospel, though their attitude and speech would reveal otherwise.

The suffering and death of Jesus should help us when we go through our pain. 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).

This perspective makes His suffering Exhibit A for how and why we are to experience suffering. With this in mind, the question becomes, “How is Jesus helping you through your suffering?” This question explores your faith. The only way Jesus can help you is by having faith (trust) in Jesus, which 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 in full Christological mode when he was writing to those who were thinking about chucking their faith. He was calling them to reorient their minds away from their problems and onto Christ. The author had sound theology—in this case, he is zeroing in on a rational Christological perspective to their problems.

  • Sound theology will give you sound application—or sound biblical discipleship.
  • Weak theology will lead to weak applications in your life. Weak theology will make a weak, fearful, and struggling person.

The Hebrew author wants to make sure the readers have a comprehensive view of Christ so their faith will carry them to the place of finding Christ’s strength in their challenges.

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).

Hebrews 214-15

Jesus can help us when we suffer and when temptations come because He identifies with us in our suffering. He understands what we’re going through. Indeed the author was right when he said,

We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

If I were to ask you who has suffered more than anyone else, how would you answer? What person(s) comes to your mind when you think about human suffering? The person who has suffered more than anyone else is God incarnate. Nobody eclipses Him on the human suffering scale.

For God to become a man 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). Nobody understands suffering as God does. Nobody has gone through anything like Him. God, in the person of Jesus, paid the highest price when it comes to suffering.

While some people may struggle with a God who would make a world that has evil in it, the more powerful thought is a God who made a world that 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.

I’ve often heard people lament, “If only someone understood my situation.” Dear friend, someone does understand what you’re going through. His name is Jesus. Will you turn to Him in faith and began to trust Him to navigate the storm in your life?

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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).

Not only does Jesus understand us, but He delivers us. He can 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 pain is because you have sinned. Maybe you did sin, and you’re suffering for it. Perhaps you didn’t sin, but you’re suffering due to someone’s sin. Either way, sin is always in play when suffering, whether it’s your sin, someone else’s sin, or simply because you live in a fallen world.

This presupposition is a crucial point: God did not come to our world to remove our suffering but to remove our sin. Our pain 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 pain defeated sin. If our sinfulness grows during our suffering, we have missed the point of His suffering, as well as ours (2 Corinthians 1:8, 4:7-10, 12:7-10).

  • We’re all dying on our way to living. – Howard Hendricks.
  • The death of death by death gives our death, death. – Anonymous

Death is the mysterious and fearful door through which we all have to walk to live (Matthew 16:25). It was the death of Christ that 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 comes at us.

Christ has defeated sin through His suffering! You should also be able to conquer sin through your adversity, which will only happen in proportion to your emulation of the Savior. It’s the foolishness and weakness of the gospel applied to your life that will give you wisdom and power in life (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

Jesus Enables Us to Act Redemptively

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:18).

The victory He experienced when He suffered and died is evidenced by His resurrection. This outcome positioned Him to help us when sin holds us in bondage. The door of suffering and death gives way for a person to be an active restorer in the lives of others. For you to be redemptive or restorative in a person’s life, there are two things you have to do.

  • You must suffer.
  • You must persevere through your suffering.

See also John 12:24; Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 2:21.

This aspect of the gospel is hard for many believers to understand: how our redemptive usefulness in this world comes through personal suffering. The most potent and persevering way you can emulate the Savior in your life and be used by Him to serve others is by enduring pain as modeled by Him. Your suffering will strengthen your faith, which will enable you to rescue others who are struggling with their faith.

The greatest temptation we face comes when the weight of our problems outweighs the gospel in our lives. When a person is regularly overwhelmed by his week or his circumstances, he is not living in the functional reality of the gospel. And when this is true for anyone, it’s vital to explore the Christ-centered disconnect.

Call to Action

  1. How do the Savior’s suffering and death help you when you are going through your difficulty?
  2. Does it strengthen and position you to help others who are captivated by sin?
  3. Will it be grumbling or the gospel?
  4. What circumstance or person in your life tempts you to grumble more than rejoice?
  5. Jesus went to the cross to die for you. Does His love for you weigh more substantial on your heart than the questions you have and the suffering you’re going through at this moment?

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

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