The past few years have seemingly brought many of us increasingly destructive weather. In the past few days, we have heard of tornadoes, snow storms, earthquakes, and other natural disasters that have left devastation and suffering all across our nation. I sometimes think that these sudden and terrible changes to the lives of so many people have become so commonplace that we have a difficult time fully comprehending how bad and how long these hard times can really be.
Suffering, in one form or another, is a daily reality for most people. Natural disasters, automobile or work-related accidents, catastrophic or temporary illness, loss of jobs, broken relationships, or unmet expectations are just a few of the causes. How can we cope?
Years ago, I received a letter from Vonette Bright, the wife of Bill Bright — founder of Campus Crusade for Christ International. She wrote of Dr. Bright’s declining physical condition.
In the letter, she related a conversation she had with Bill and a question she asked him: “Why do you think you’re suffering? Why would God put you through this?” Bill’s immediate reply was, “I’m not suffering! It depends on the definition of suffering. Even grasping for breath for extended periods of time does not compare with what Christ went through during his trial and crucifixion. He had six hours suffocating on the cross. Think about Peter being crucified head downward, Paul’s persecution and finally being beheaded. All the disciples were persecuted and martyred, except John, who was exiled.” Dr. Bright continued, “What I am going through is very minor. Suffering is a matter of perspective. It is not pleasant . . . but God allows only so much.”
Later, when Dr. Bright’s blood oxygen level dropped to a dangerously low level, he asked his wife to read from 1 Peter: “These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold — and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold” (1 Peter 1:7, NLT).
When suffering comes, hold on to your faith, my colleague! Hold on! It’s a matter of perspective.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).