Sensing God Through Suffering
Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt that God was not there? Perhaps a love one died, or maybe you were just going through an extended season of loneliness. Maybe you had a serious illness that you were dealing with, or maybe you were dealing with constant relational issues. Perhaps, the various sufferings you were struggling with have caused you to question the existence of an all-loving God who cares for you deeply. Don’t worry, we’ve all be there. No one is exempt.
Whether you realize it or not, suffering can actually liberate you and help you grow deeper in your relationship with God. Let’s be honest with one another--nobody likes to suffer. There are so many times, because of our cognitive limitations, we just cannot understand why God would put us through such difficult times. However, if we submit ourselves before God and continue walking with him through our pain and suffering, we will begin to sense him more in all areas of life. God has a sovereign purpose in your suffering and he wants you to sense his presence throughout all the various trials you encounter. Do not turn away from him during this trial you are facing. Embrace him during this suffering and walk with him.
The reason that I believe this is because of the suffering that I experienced at the end of 2012. In November of that year, my grandmother passed away and I found out that my mom had cancer. It was one of the loneliest and darkest times of my life. However, it was through these trials that I began to sense God in a deeper and more profound way. It was almost like my “sense of the divine” was suddenly switched on. Ever since then, I have continued to focus on perceiving God within my own life and I hope that sensing God is something that you will put into practice in your own life as well.
As Christians, we must always be prepared and equipped to deal with the various hardships of life. In this post, I am going to discuss four ways that Christians can perceive that God is with them, even when the darkness is ever-present.
1. Sensing God Through the Gospel
When suffering is consistent, there is a need for a consistent message of hope. This message of hope is found in the resounding statement: “It is finished!” The good news of the gospel is the only message that will always be good no matter what season of life you are in. Though your trials may be many, the gospel is a message that can shine light even in the darkest of nights. The message that the Son of God came to seek and save the lost (Lk. 19:10) is a message available for you wherever you are at. Though the pit that you are in right now may be deep, God’s grace and love for you through the gospel of Christ is deeper. The gospel can help you perceive that God is with you during trials because God did not withhold his only Son from you, even when you were at your very worst (Rom. 5:8; Rom. 8:32). So go ahead and try preaching the gospel to yourself. The good news might help you sense the presence of your mighty Comforter right where you are.
2. Sensing God Through His Word
If you want to know what God is like, then you must read your Bible. It is just that plain and simple. However, all to often when pain is present we turn away from the living word of God. Why do we do this though when the Bible is in fact words given to us from the almighty God (2 Tim. 3:16-17)? Why do we find satisfaction in the pleasures of this world and not in the life-changing word of the God of the universe? When darkness closes in and despair is very near, you must plant your feet on God’s word. Just by reading the Scriptures aloud, you will begin to sense the joy and hope of your Father in Heaven through his all-comforting Word and the work of the Spirit.
3. Sensing God Through Prayer
When Jesus Christ was in the Garden of Gethsemane, with the cross in his sight, he prayed (Matt. 26:36-46). None of us will ever be able to comprehend the anxiety and stress he was facing at that moment. However, we can learn from Jesus that communion with God through prayer is indispensable, especially in times of struggle. By praying to our Father, we are able to experience him in a more intimate way (look at how David openly prayed and lamented in the Psalms). Perceiving that God hears you when you pray is what will embolden you to interact with him more and more. When trials of many kinds are present, do not hesitate to pray and enter into God’s presence.
4. Sensing God Through Worship
Have you ever realized that worship can be used as a weapon when you are suffering? What did Paul and Silas do when they were in prison (Acts 16: 25)? They worshiped. They did this because their hearts and minds were on things above. Even though their circumstances should have caused them to despair (imagine being in a prison in the first century), they instead chose to worship and sing praises to the one true God. Praising the name of the Lord even in the darkest moments of life will allow you to sense that God is in your midst.
Implications For Discipleship
There is no doubt--God uses our sufferings to make us mature in Christ Jesus. All believers are called to press on through the sufferings of life because it cultivates perseverance within us (Js. 1:2-4). Remember, there is no crown of glory without going the way of the cross. Another beautiful thing about suffering is it helps us empathize with those who suffer after us (Eph. 4:2). Realizing that God is faithful through our trials, helps us to share the unshakeable hope of Christ with others when they are suffering. Maturing as a believer in Christ Jesus requires us to recall the faithfulness of God and praise him even when life doesn’t make sense (Job 1:21). When we are in the furnace, we must keep our eyes on our Savior and try to perceive that his grace and love is near. We do that through the gospel, his Word, prayer, and worship.
Matt Manry is the Director of Discipleship at Life Bible Church in Canton, Georgia. He is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. He also works on the editorial team for Credo Magazine and Gospel-Centered Discipleship. He blogs regularly at gospelglory.net.