By Dr. Nathan Millican
Philip Yancey in this book Reaching for the Invisible God comments that Basil of Caesarea’s faith was “ambidextrous” because he simultaneously held God’s blessings in his right hand and life’s difficulties in his left hand. He trusted that God was good and would accomplish His good purposes through pain and suffering.
The apostle Paul writes that for the sake of Jesus, God has granted us belief in His Son, as well as suffering (see Phil 1:29). There it is. Unmistakable and unambiguous: God has given His followers suffering. It’s part of His gracious posture towards us. Most of us want belief without suffering. Nate, help me understand suffering and hardship. How should I see it as God’s grace in my life? Remember, grace is receiving what we don’t deserve, so how is suffering and hardship God’s grace?
I am not a theologian or a scholar, but I am very aware of the fact that pain is necessary to all of us. In my own life, I think I can honestly say that out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God – Elisabeth Elliot
God uses suffering and hardship to draw us closer to dependency upon Him. We are by nature self-reliant creatures. That self-reliant posture isn’t eradicated once we become a Christian or when we’re set apart for gospel ministry. It’s still there lurking and ready to pounce on us if we’re not careful (see Gen 4).
Here are some ways where a pastor/planter will inevitably face pain and suffering:
- Vocational complexity
- Toxic culture
- Lack of followship
- Gossip or slander
But what does pain or suffering teach us? Samuel Chand in his book Leadership Pain gives us five lessons that a pastor can learn from pain and suffering:
- We are weaker, more self-absorbed, and more fragile than we ever imagined.
- At times we don’t have a clue what God is up to.
- We become more grateful.
- We find God to be beautiful instead of just useful.
- We become more tender, more understanding, and more compassionate.