When Christians Try to Say Helpful Things
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
When we see others suffering, it’s our nature to want to say something helpful. As Christians, we often attempt to put some spin on the pain, so it’s not that bad. We tell the one suffering that It will all work out for you, or we insist that, Someday, you will see the reason for all of this.
The problem is that we don’t know that, and those things aren’t necessarily Biblical. Things don’t always work out according to our specifications and we aren’t promised an answer for why painful things happen. We want the words of comfort to be true though, so we say them in an attempt to be helpful. Telling someone a comforting lie though, is still lying to them.
So, I’m hesitant to write of your pain and suffering. I know what some of you are going through. Some of you have experienced inexplicable loss. Some of you are going through horrible illnesses and trials. Some of you are struggling with an addiction that seems like you will never conquer and some of you live with an addict whom it seems will never get clean.
To all of us though, in all of our trials, Paul wrote today’s words. He didn’t promise that everything will work out according to our ideals and he didn’t say that we’d someday understand why bad things happen. He simply said that God uses our pain and suffering to shape us. He didn’t say that God caused the bad thing to discipline us. He just said that God can use our pain to transform us into what he wants us to be. Looking back, most of us can see that the toughest times were also the times we’ve grown the most.
What Paul didn’t directly say, but which I think is implied, is that the outcome, is largely up to us. Our attitude directly affects how God is able to use our trials. If, in our suffering, we indulge in self-destructive behaviors, our pain can destroy us. If, however, we look to God, following him, he can use our misery to shape us into who we were made to be.