“God, help us be patient and stand firm in our suffering so that we can trust You are at work in a perfect way that we may not yet see.”
Hot take: suffering is hard.
Living in a broken world guarantees that suffering will write itself into our stories. The degree of hardship and the manner in which we encounter it reminds me a lot of the weather forecast. Currently, Hurricane Dorian is a Category 5 storm mercilessly pummeling the Bahamas with a projected path toward our NC coast. Occasionally, hardships rain down on us like a passing shower; other times, we’re left crippled by hurricane-force winds.
Rejection. Grief. Chronic illness. Broken relationships. Grueling waiting periods. Financial debt. Trauma. Depression. Anxiety. Infertility. “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1)
In James’ writing (5:7-12), his exhortation hinges on patience in suffering. Rather than including some early century clickbait, “Five Ways to Avoid Suffering”, James urges his brothers and sisters in the faith to lean into the suffering and persevere in their hardship.
“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near… Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:7,8,10,11)
In this passage, we see the value of patience and conclude that relief in suffering doesn’t come immediately. As the farmer scatters seed, he doesn’t expect crops to immediately leap out of the dirt holes. He does the work, waits for the rains, and months later harvests his crops.
James also mentions the patience of the prophets and the perseverance they demonstrated in trials. The prophet Jeremiah was put in stocks, thrown in prison, and lowered by ropes into a muddy cistern- and still, he persevered in ministry despite his suffering.
Relief in suffering does not come instantly. Even so, we have hope because our suffering will not last forever. Again, but louder for the back-row Baptists: the suffering you are enduring will not last forever. Thank you, Jesus. In our prayers for mercy, we ask for a swift end to our suffering. The Lord may bring an end to our suffering and pour out blessing, as He did in Job’s story. Our perspective, though, remains eternal. As in James’ refrain that the Lord’s coming is near, we know the suffering we endure may end on the day we see Jesus’ face. His words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”, will far surpass any earthly blessing we could imagine.
Tim Keller says, “Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you.” Sister, God is for you. He is with you in your suffering. What you’re going through is hard- so hard- but the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
God, help us be patient and stand firm in our suffering so that we can trust You are at work in a perfect way that we may not yet see.