All of you who revere the Lord—praise him!
All of you who are Jacob’s descendants—honor him!
All of you who are all Israel’s offspring—
stand in awe of him!
Because he didn’t despise or detest
the suffering of the one who suffered—
he didn’t hide his face from me.
No, he listened when I cried out to him for help.
I offer praise in the great congregation
because of you;
I will fulfill my promises
in the presence of those who honor God.
Let all those who are suffering eat and be full!
Let all who seek the Lord praise him!
I pray your hearts live forever!
Every part of the earth
will remember and come back to the Lord;
every family among all the nations will worship you.
Because the right to rule belongs to the Lord,
he rules all nations.
Indeed, all the earth’s powerful
will worship him;
all who are descending to the dust
will kneel before him;
my being also lives for him.
Future descendants will serve him;
generations to come will be told about my Lord.
They will proclaim God’s righteousness
to those not yet born,
telling them what God has done. (CEB)
“Suffering” is a word we would like to avoid. Simply saying or reading the word might make us cringe. Suffering? No thanks. I think I’ll pass on that. Yet, something inside of us instinctively knows we cannot get around it. Everyone suffers in some way. It is endemic to the human condition that at times we will suffer physically, financially, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
That’s why I believe there is so much talk within some Christian circles about miracles. It’s more than understandable. A chronic pain sufferer wants relief; she prays for a miracle of health. A small business owner is bleeding financially; he looks to God for an immediate miracle of wealthy clients. A beloved senior saint knows she is afflicted with Alzheimer’s; she prays for the miracle of deliverance, even to be taken home to be with the Lord. A young adult finds himself in the throes of depression and has tried everything to cope and get out of it; he petitions God for a miracle out of the deep black hole. The believer in Jesus keeps experiencing a besetting sin and cannot get over it; she looks to God for the miracle of not struggling any more with it.
These scenarios and a thousand other maladies afflict people everywhere. There are a multitude of stories out there. Folks who have experienced a miracle tell of their wonderful deliverance. But what about the rest? Those without the miracle? Do they have a lack of faith? Has God forgotten them?
Oh, my, no! God sees, and God knows. God is acquainted with suffering. Jesus knows it first-hand. Remember, it was Jesus who said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Even Jesus cried out in his suffering. But there was no deliverance coming for him. There was, instead, deliverance coming for us.
Sometimes the greatest miracle and deliverance of all is to be freed from the need for a miracle. The reason God doesn’t just offer immediate relief from everyone’s suffering and bring a miracle is that he is doing something else: Walking with us through our suffering. God oftentimes has plans and purposes for us well beyond our understanding. We simply are not privy to everything in God’s mind.
We may not get the miracle we desire. However, what we will get without fail is God’s provision and steadfast love all the way through the suffering. Where is God in your suffering? Jesus is suffering with you. You are not crying alone; Christ weeps with you.
Let, then, those who suffer, eat and be full. Let them be satisfied with the portion God has given them. What’s more, let them offer praise to the God who is squarely beside them in every affliction and each trouble.
God Almighty, you are the One who knows suffering and affliction better than anyone. I admit I don’t often understand what in the world you are doing or not doing in my life and in the lives of those I love. Yet, I admit that I have found in you the comfort, encouragement, and strength to live another day in my trouble. For this, I praise you, in the Name of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.