The Purpose of Suffering

 

by: Lucas Hawkins


My wife showed me the Whosoever web page and encouraged me to write an article on suffering. After ten years of marriage, she has seen most of my suffering, especially mental suffering. I've been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Much of this has been mental distress arising from fear or embarrassment that may happen to me if someone found out that I was a transsexual (FtoM). No matter how careful I was, I always feared someone would get access to my medical records and find out my past life. We have involved ourselves with a nondenominational Christian church that believes in eternal security, love, mercy and grace, and the finished work of Jesus Christ. I could not face the rejection if these Christians found out that I was not a biological male. I know that they are ignorant to the subject of transsexuality, because of what they believe about homosexuality. If they find out about me, their `love' for my wife and me, would turn into hatred, loathing, and we would be `kicked' out of the church. This would be devastating for me, because I do love them in Christ. However, God has done a work in me that even though I had these fears, He has shown me a better way.

About four years ago, I had become frustrated over theological differences with my previous pastor because he was not biblically correct in his beliefs on eternal security. We were not growing, so we prayed for Biblical teaching, and our prayers were heard and we were sent to a church that rightly divided the Word of God. Since that time, our lives have changed for the better. I am happier and I am being challenged each week to get to know our Lord through Scripture. I no longer have anxiety because of the assurance I have in my future with Christ. Also, my depression is under control, as I no longer fear death and I look forward to the rapture that I believe will come in my lifetime. I am coping with my affliction much like the Apostle Paul, knowing that His grace is sufficient for me.

God's purpose for suffering is clearly explained in Romans 5:3-5:

" ... we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us."

I want to add a few more scriptures to help clarify this. My references come from the teachings I received from our new church. The church teaches us how to look at doctrinal issues with hermeneutics, isagogics, well-defined dispensations and the Law, plus, giving specifics of who is under the law and who is not, and distinguishing three people groups, Jews, Gentiles, and the Church.

There are so many reasons why people suffer. In Ecclesiastics 2:22-23, the every day details of life often bring suffering. Bona fide suffering can come as a guilt-reaction to sin. Wounds and scars in our souls from wrong decisions bring suffering (Ephesians 4:17-19). When people join together with the wrong person, or with the wrong intentions can bring about suffering. Or when we do not isolate the sins in our life, and move on, putting it behind us (Hebrews 12:15), not allowing the finished work of Jesus Christ to take away that sin, because Christ already died for that sin. Or when the Holy Spirit groans when we are backsliding and we cannot pray as we ought because we are out of fellowship with God (Romans 8:18-27).

Some of the worst suffering we experience comes as a result of rejecting spiritual authority, which is a covering to protect us from the consequences of poor decisions (Judges 19:21; Matthew 7:29- 8:13). In that same category, is the suffering that comes from rejecting the Word of God. We suffer when our emotions are not kept with God's mind (John 20:9-18). God will allow natural disasters to bring suffering when there is no pivotal force of believers with godly character to hold back judgment upon nations (Isaiah 59).

There is, however, suffering that brings positive results for us in eternity and for the furtherance of God's plan here on earth. We may suffer to demonstrate the power and provision of God, to manifest His grace (2 Corinthians 12). Suffering for the body's sake, for Christ's sake, when we are faced with unusual trials enables us to identify with others (1 Corinthians 12:26; Romans 12:16). We can become witnesses in the invisible angelic contest (1 Peter 1:12; 1 Corinthians 4:9), testimonies of God's power and provision in the midst of suffering, while we store up degrees of glory for all of eternity. There is much more I could say on these topics, but to save space and time I want to discuss another point of view. (I love the Apostle Paul. I love his character, his boldness and getting right to the point of the matter and I'm excited to tell you to be as bold as Paul).

Israel was a nation of chosen people. God selected them to be His people. He brought them out of bondage, led them through the wilderness, and delivered them into the Promised Land. As a nation, they endured much along the way, but everything was according to God's design. His heart was that they would know Him.

This is still God's heart today. He longs to have us run to Him and receive His Word of truth when we face trials, troubles, and adversity. What do you identify with when you are in difficult situations? Do you let the situation control you and become your focus? Or, do you recognize the plan of God at work? No matter what we do and no matter what situation we face, we belong to God. He has chosen us to get to know Christ.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: "Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, .... To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved". "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; ... In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:3-7,11).

"Before the foundation of the world" literally means from before all of eternity. From eternity past, He has chosen you and I. We become so easily distracted by things that happen in this life, and it is easy to lose the viewpoint of eternity, I know I did. You are not in your relationship by accident. You are not at your job by accident. You were chosen for every single thing that you do. It didn't "just happen," so that God has to figure out a plan of "How am I going to get you out of this one?" He chose you from eternity.

Yet, if God knew that people would get hurt, that people would become confused, that our lives could be robbed, if He knew that we could be led the wrong way, why has He allowed it? In the midst of our trials, we always cry out, "Why?" to God. There is a simple answer. Before the foundation of the world, from eternity past, God has chosen us (believers) as "holy," which means we have been set apart, for Him, with an eternal purpose. There is an eternal purpose in everything we get involved in. Even on this earthly, temporal situation, there is an eternal purpose in it. Even in our worst condition, the Bible says that as His adopted children, we are holy and "without blame," absent of defects. We all have had so many experiences that have affected our lives.

Since the day we accepted Christ, He has instructed us by His Word and the Holy Spirit, and we are accountable for all we have been given. Therefore, when we learn something new, such as seeing ourselves in the Finished Work with an eternal purpose, God will see that we have opportunities to experience it through practical application. The plan may include stripping us of any natural strength, as well as building us up in measures we could not imagine. But as we are being conformed to His image (Romans 8:29), the goal is that we may know Him.

As Christ sees us, every born-again believer is without defects, absolutely perfect. We are accountable to that fact. From a natural viewpoint, I have plenty of defects. Many of us have a natural tendency toward pride, insecurity, anger, and a host of other weaknesses. But the issue is that from the viewpoint of eternity, God chose to see us without defects because He is confident in what He can do in our lives. How can He do that? Because the Word says we are "before Him in love." We are always in the presence of unconditional love.

There may be times when you don't feel loved, when there is a void in your life and you can't understand what is going on. But there is always a God who looks beyond your faults. He sees you with unconditional love, saying, "I've washed away the things that have gone wrong in your life. There are no more defects, because I have washed them all away according to My Word." Even when we deny the Word, the Word is the very thing that upholds us. We can do nothing against the truth (2 Corinthians 13:8). It will uphold us, because we are always in the presence of love. God is everywhere present. He will never leave you nor forsake you. The day you believed in Jesus Christ (the Son of God, who took away the sins of the world by dying freely on a cross, was buried, and was resurrected from the dead, and is still alive forevermore) you became a child of God. He has chosen you according to foreknowledge. He made a plan that He knew He could perform according to His knowledge of your being in Him before you were even born.

Predestination should not be such a troubling doctrine for so many people to understand. We are predestined because our life is hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). Christ's life was the only life that was ever predestined. When we are placed in Him at our salvation, our life is predestined, because He knows where He's going and He knows He has the power to get there. That is why at times, when we have stepped outside of Christ in our experience (even though, positionally we are still in Him), we may not think that we have any direction. But our life is still hid with Christ in God. He chose us from eternity with the view of eternity.

He knows the direction we are taking. He rests in His love (Zephaniah 3:17). There is a rest we can walk in and abide in. No matter what is going on, there is an answer. We can trust in His plan.

Therefore, because I am resting in the plan of God, I can be more at peace in Christ. My sufferings have been lessened. I know that God will never utterly cast me out, I am upheld by His right hand (Psalm 37:4). Even though `friends, family, and co-workers' may cast me out by knowing my `identity' in the flesh (as a transsexual), I thank God, that I am hidden in Him (Colossians 3:3). God sees me in Christ. He sees my new creation, the old has past away, behold all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live. Yet, not I, but Christ lives in me. The life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me, and I love Him (Galatians 2:20). All that matters to me now, is my faith in Christ, because I know that I am accepted in the Beloved, I am accepted by my wife, and that I will be with Christ in Glory, when I die, or am raptured (whichever comes first).

God bless you in your discovery with the Word of God.

Copyright © 2000 by the author
All Rights Reserved


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Also In This Issue:

What Does the Lord Require?

Suffering in the Service of Christ






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