Christian Living · Knowing God · Trust

Patience, Even When Suffering Doesn’t Make Sense


Suffering is frequently linked with the word “why.” Why do we suffer? Why does God allow suffering? Why me?

Suffering triggers an immediate desire to understand why. When sin entered the world suffering came along for the ride. We have seasons of peace, seasons of prosperity, and seasons of pain. Even in the good seasons, our lives are sprinkled with suffering. The deeper answers to the why’s are best answered by God.

Knowing why doesn’t change the suffering, but knowing God changes our response.

Finding Joy in Suffering

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

~ James 1.2-3, NKJV

During my younger years, I often wondered what hell would be like. The Bible tells us that hell is a place of eternal suffering. The worst part of hell isn’t the suffering, it is the absence of God.

I frequently feel like the world is a place of eternal suffering, but it isn’t. Suffering is pervasive, but there are also seasons of happiness. Furthermore, if we have God in our lives, we can actually have joy in the pain, knowing that there is some greater purpose involved. Unlike hell, heaven is a place of eternal peace where we will behold God’s presence forever. I’d much rather suffer for a few years on earth with God in my heart than to spend an eternity in hell without Him. Knowing God and recognizing His presence in every circumstance brings great joy.

As a Christian, we have hope in a resurrection devoid of suffering. We believe that there is a life after this one. We have faith in God to make this possible because Jesus conquered death. Anything we suffer in this life cannot compare with the beauty that awaits us in the next. It is this hope, this confident expectation of good, that brings us joy.

Furthermore, we should be learning that God cares about the inner heart more than the outer circumstance. God can take the twisted mess of our pain and transform us into something far more perfect and precious than we could have imagined. As James tells us, our suffering produces patience/steadfastness/endurance. He is making us more like Him through all that we suffer. If we love God and want to be like Him, this knowledge will ultimately give us the joy we need under fire.

An Example of Suffering and Steadfastness.

As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

~ James 5.10-11, ESV

When a parent finds themselves bereft of a child, they can empathize with the many complaints of Job. Job lost all of his children at once in a series of tragic events. Job suffered more than most of us can imagine.

Job’s initial response was born from a heart devoted to God. Tearing his clothes in grief, he dropped to the dust and cried, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1.21)

How could Job respond with such remarkable acceptance?

Job could still bless the Lord because He devoted His life to the Lord. In spite of all he suffered, in spite of all the “why’s,” he refused to reject God. Job still asked why. Job still made improper assumptions. Job still messed up, and yet James says he is an example of steadfastness because he believed God would vindicate him.

After Job questioned God, this is God’s response in a nutshell: “I am God. You are not.” (Read the full text of God’s response in Job 38-41)

We put too much stock in our own smarts. We think we are so wise, yet compared to God we are quite limited. We are finite and God is infinite. God has ultimate power, while we only have power over our own choices. We see such a short span of time, but God sees the future and knows exactly how this trial can transform you in ways you couldn’t possibly imagine.

Consider another passage in which God has a similar response:

Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.

Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

~ Isaiah 40.27-31, ESV

God is Almighty. We are not.

While we suffer or wait or feel confusion about both, we need to keep fixing our eyes on the Lord. Remember His great and precious promises. Remember His qualities.

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit develops this patience within us as we submit to Him. As we endure suffering, wait on God’s timing, and learn to walk by faith and not by sight, God transforms us into something far more beautiful than we could ever have conceived on our own.

When we learn to truly recognize that “It is well with our soul” even when it is not well in the world, we will begin to understand (and exercise) true patience.

I’m including a link to a song below that has encouraged me because it reminds me of the Psalms and speaks what is often on my heart:

“God when you choose to leave mountains unmoveable,
Oh, give me the strength to be able to sing, ‘it is well with my soul.’

“I know You’re able and I know You can
save through the fire with Your mighty hand,
But even if you don’t, my hope is You alone.
I know the sorrow and I know the hurt
would all go away if You’d just say the word,
But even if You don’t, my hope is You alone.

This is part 3 in the series on Cultivating Patience.

To read the previous posts in this series, click the links below:

  1. The Trouble With Praying for Patience
  2. The Need for Rest
  3. When God’s Timing Doesn’t Make Sense

17 thoughts on “Patience, Even When Suffering Doesn’t Make Sense

  1. Thank you for these words. I’m so concerned for those who are going through depression and isolation. They need to hear that they are not alone – that God can handle anything they go through.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you so much for being such an encouragement. We all go through suffering on this earth, and it is good to be reminded that God is ever-present, no matter what we are going though.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amen. I need this reminder too, because there are moments when I allow circumstance to overshadow what I know about God. May the Lord bless you abundantly.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh!! I really needed this right now!!

    I had surgery under general anesthesia two days ago, so I am not feeling the greatest right now. While I was in the recovery room, the surgeon told my husband that he “biopsied everything”, although he did not see anything very alarming. Not seeing anything very alarming is great news. But even so, I feel like I am holding my breath, waiting for the results — which I may not get for a week or two. With my family history of cancer in that area, and my own history of a large precancerous polyp removed from that area about 20 years ago, I am concerned.

    But even more than my own health, is my concern about my daughter. She is going through some very hard things right now, on top of being worried about me. I was talking with her last night, trying to comfort her, and in my addle-brained, post-surgical condition, I fear that what I said may have made her feel even worse. She is a therapist intern, soon to be a full fledged therapist, so she understands a lot, but still — I wanted to make her feel better, not worse!

    When I woke up about an hour and a half ago, the first thing I remembered was my conversation with my daughter, and I felt my spirits plummet. Then, as I struggled to get out of bed, I felt so weak, I almost wanted to cry.

    This was the mood I was in when I logged onto my WordPress reader, looking for something to distract me from my thoughts. As I was scrolling down through the various new posts of the blogs I follow, I read your title: Patience, even when suffering doesn’t make sense, and I knew I had to read this before doing anything else. And yes — wow — thank you, dear wonderful wise Elihu — this is exactly what I needed right now! Thank you so very much!!

    You know, there is a lot in me that needs to be renewed and transformed. A lot of dross, a lot of mess from my years as an unbeliever, living so far from the Lord. Of course it’s going to take a lot of molding and rebuilding, to get me to where God wants me to be. At this time in my life, I finally have reached the point where I want God’s will above all, even when it hurts. Even when it doesn’t make sense. So — have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way — You are the Potter, I am the clay…

    And maybe — maybe what I told my daughter, wasn’t wrong for me to tell her, after all. It was the truth, something she did not know. Maybe she needed to know it, even if it hurts to know it? I don’t know. She is grown with grown children of her own, but she is still my precious baby. She has suffered so much in life. I just want the best for her.

    So I am praying for my daughter, and for God to richly bless YOU today. Thank you for this post! I am going to read it again right now!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Linda, I am so glad this post encouraged you today. It sounds like you have a lot of weight on your heart. God is so merciful. Only He truly knows and understands the struggles we carry within our hearts and I have always found that He provides the encouragement we need at just the moment we need it—often through other Christians! 😊 I am praying for you and the doctors caring for you. I pray the results are favorable. I also pray that your daughter and you are blessed with a season of refreshing and renewal. I am so thankful for you sharing your story with me—it is truly an encouragement!

      Liked by 1 person

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