The wrong and right way to handle suffering

I was speaking with the resident of a local nursing home. She didn’t seem especially enthused about her living arrangements, frequently sighing as we talked.

Do you like it here?” I asked.

Not really,” she replied, but that’s okay.” I saw a faint smile as she looked up at me and added, I won’t be here long.”

She didn’t have to tell me what she meant. I knew. For to her to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Php 4:21).

When Christians suffer in this life, we often compare our trials to those of others. We say, I shouldn’t complain. So-and-so has it much worse.” This, however, is not a biblical coping mechanism. Never does Scripture advise us to minimize our hardships. We feel what we feel, and God permits us to be candid about it. David, for example, laments, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Ps 22:1). Did God forsake David? Of course not, but God still allowed—inspired him even—to express his raw, authentic emotions.

Instead, the biblical approach places our sufferings on one side of the scale while laying God’s promises on the other.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:18-23)

Believers can be content in Christ while simultaneously dissatisfied with this fallen world. Our hope is not in better days here, though God may bless us with some. We place our hope and fix our eyes on Christ alone and his promises. We survive the sufferings of this present time by eagerly yet patiently waiting for those promises to be fulfilled (Ro 8:18).