But unless you see your sin, unless you see your wickedness as a greater evil than all your trials, unless you see the wrath of God and His eternal punishment, more severe and more frightening than any trial, you are not going to find joy in the salvation that Jesus Christ provides. God is very much in our lives, working quietly behind the scenes, through the job losses, through the floods, through the fires, through harsh governments, through unjust employers, through miscarriages, through failures, through difficult marriages, so that we might see more of our sin, but also that we might see much more of our Saviour and be anchored in him.
So how should we respond to suffering? How should we as pastors respond to suffering? I’m going to give you 12 points, and they’re going to summarize all that has been said before.
1. Don’t be surprised when trials come. That’s 1 Peter 4:12. Expect it, talk about it, get together with other pastors frequently, read good books on suffering and talk about it. So I was looking at the website of the All India Pastors Conference, and there are some great books recommended there, Surprised by Suffering: The Role of Pain in the Christian Life by R.C. Sproul. Let me recommend another book, Weakness is the Way, by J.I. Packer, or just read, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God by John Piper. Don’t be surprised, keep talking about it when you’re not suffering, and prepare yourself for that day when you will suffer.
2. Remember the gospel and your calling. Christ also suffered leaving you an example. You have been called to this, this is God’s will for you. You see that in 1 Peter 2:21 and Philippians 1:21. Always remember that that’s the first fuse to blow.
3. Be mindful of God. Remember his sovereignty over all things, and entrust yourself to him, especially when you suffer unjustly when it’s not your fault. And let me suggest this, start with the small things. Remind yourself that he is sovereign, when your bike tire gets punctured, when you miss the bus, when the electricity goes off, when the motor doesn’t work, when your children fall sick, be mindful of God when the little things go wrong. And then you will be able to submit to Him when the great sorrows arise.
4. Trust in the Lord’s wisdom and power. He knows how to rescue the godly from trials (2 Peter 2:9). He knows what he’s doing. So often when I’m confused and weary and tired, I say to myself, “I don’t know what’s happening.” But I have comfort that the Lord knows what he’s doing. He knows what he’s doing.
5. Remember, suffering is for your sanctification. It is meant to produce endurance. You see that in Romans 5:3, so teach yourself that from the New Testament. Teach Yourself that from the Old Testament. Do you remember what David said in Psalm 119:71? “It is good for me that I was afflicted so that I may learn your statutes.”
6. Remember that suffering and trials are battles that require you, pastor, to fight your unbelief. Fight it with faith in Christ’s all sufficient work, share and suffering as a good Soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3).
7. Pray, pray, pray and pray. Remember what James 5:13 says, Is there anyone among you who is suffering? What should you do? Pray, go to the one who has all authority and all power. Go to the one who can help you, and you will receive grace and mercy in time of your need. Christ ensures that you will get that.
8. Endure suffering and remain steadfast, knowing that you will receive the crown of life. That’s what James 1:12 says.
9. Resist the devil and be firm in your faith. Resist the devil and be firm in your faith, and remember the church. In 1 Peter 5:9, Peter says your brothers face the same problems all over the world. Remember, you are not alone.
10. Rejoice. Count it all joy (James 1:2). This is God working in you.
11. Be filled with hope. Remember that all suffering is temporary.