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CHUCK SWINDOLL ON “WHY DO WE SUFFER?”

30 Oct

WHY CHRISTIANS SUFFER – A MEDITATION ON 2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-11

CBW Swindoll

2 Corinthians 1:3-11, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. 

Of all the letters Paul wrote, Second Corinthians is the most autobiographical. In it the great apostle lifts the veil of his private life and allows us to catch a glimpse of his human frailties and needs. You need to read that letter in one sitting to capture the moving emotion that surged through his soul.
It is in this letter alone that he records the specifics of his anguish, tears, affliction, and satanic opposition. In this letter alone he spells out the details of his persecution, loneliness, imprisonments, beatings, feelings of despair, hunger, shipwrecks, sleepless nights, and that “thorn in the flesh”–his companion of pain. How close it makes us feel to him when we picture him as a man with real, honest-to-goodness problems…just like you and me!
It is not surprising, then, that he begins the letter with words of comfort–especially verses 3 through 11. Now, then, having read those nine verses, please observe his frequent use of the term comfort in verses 3-7. I count ten times in five verses that the same root word is employed by Paul. This word is para-kaleo, meaning literally, “to call alongside.” It involves more than a shallow “pat on the back” with the tired expression, “the Lord bless you…” No, this word involves genuine in-depth understanding…deep-down compassion and sympathy. This seems especially appropriate since it says that God, our Father, is the “God of all comfort” who “comforts us in all our affliction.” Our loving Father is never preoccupied or removed when we are enduring sadness and affliction! Read Hebrews 4:14-16 and Matthew 6:31-32 as further proof.
There is yet another observation worth noting in 2 Corinthians, chapter 1. No less than three reasons are given for suffering–each one introduced with the term “that” in verses 4, 9, and 11. Quietly and without a lot of fanfare, the Holy Spirit states the reasons we suffer:
(1) “That we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction…” (v. 4). God allows suffering so that we might have the capacity to enter into others’ sorrow and affliction. Isn’t that true? If you have suffered a broken leg and been confined to crutches for weeks–you are in complete sympathy with someone else on crutches, even years after your affliction. The same is true for the loss of a child…emotional depression…an auto accident…undergoing unfair criticism…financial burdens. God gives His children the capacity to understand by bringing similar sufferings into our lives. Bruises attract one another.
(2) “That we should not trust in ourselves…” (v. 9). God also allows suffering so that we might learn what it means to depend on Him, not on our own strength and resources. Doesn’t suffering do that? It forces us to lean on Him totally, absolutely. Over and over He reminds us of the danger of pride…but it frequently takes suffering to make the lesson stick. Pride is smashed most effectively when the suffering comes suddenly, surprisingly. The express trains of heaven are seldom announced by a warning bell; they dash suddenly and abruptly into the station of the soul. Perhaps that has been your experience recently. Don’t resent the affliction as an intruder–welcome it as God’s message to stop trusting in your flesh…and start leaning on Him.
(3) “That thanks may be given…” (v. 11). Honestly–have you said, Thanks, Lord for this test”? Have you finally stopped struggling and expressed to Him how much you appreciate His loving sovereignty over your life? I submit that one of the reasons our suffering is prolonged is that we take so long saying “Thank you, Lord” with an attitude of genuine appreciation.
How unfinished and rebellious and proud and unconcerned we be without suffering! Here are two statements on suffering I heard years ago and shall never forget:
Pain plants the flag of reality in the fortress of a rebel heart.
When God wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible individual–and crushes him.
May these things encourage you the next time God heats up the furnace.
Source: Chuck Swindoll. Come Before Winter…And Share My Hope. Multnomah Press, Portland, OR.: 1985, pp. 202-203.

 About the Author:

Dr. Charles R. Swindoll is senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church, chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, and the Bible teacher on the internationally syndicated radio program Insight for Living.

Charles Swindoll’s Books:

  • You And Your Child, Thomas Nelson (1977)

  • Hand Me Another Brick, Thomas Nelson (1978)

  • Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back: Persevering Through Pressure, Thomas Nelson (1980)

  • Strike The Original Match, Multnomah (1980)

  • Improving Your Serve: The Art Of Unselfish Living, Word (1981)

  • Strengthening Your Grip: Essentials In An Aimless World, Word (1982)

  • Growing Strong In The Seasons Of Life, Multnomah (1983)

  • Dropping Your Guard: The Value Of Open Relationships, Word (1983)

  • Come Before Winter – And Share My Hope, Multnomah (1985)

  • Living On The Ragged Edge: Coming To Terms With Reality, Word (1985)

  • Growing Deep In The Christian Life: Returning To Our Roots, Multnomah (1986)

  • The Quest For Character, Multnomah (1987)

  • Living Above The Level Of Mediocrity : A Commitment To Excellence, Word (1987)

  • Growing Wise In Family Life, Multnomah (1988)

  • Living Beyond The Daily Grind: Reflections On The Songs And Sayings In Scripture, Word (1988)

  • Rise & Shine: A Wake-Up Call, Multnomah (1989)

  • The Grace Awakening, Word (1990)

  • Sanctity Of Life: The Inescapable Issue, Word (1990)

  • Stress Fractures, Multnomah (1990)

  • Simple Faith, Word (1991)

  • Laugh Again, Word (1992)

  • Flying Closer To The Flame (Re-issued as Embraced by The Spirit: The Untold Blessings of Intimacy with God, Word in 1993 & Zondervan in 2010)

  • The Finishing Touch, Word (1994)

  • Paw Paw Chuck’s Big Ideas in the Bible, Word (1995)

  • Hope Again, Word (1996)

  • The Road To Armageddon (with John F Walvoord; J Dwight Pentecost), Word (1999)

  • Start Where You Are: Catch A Fresh Vision For Your Life, Word (1999)

  • The Mystery Of God’s Will: What Does He Want For Me?, Word (1999)

  • Perfect Trust: Ears To Hear, Hearts To Trust, And Minds To Rest In Him, J. Countryman (2000 & 2012)

  • The Darkness And The Dawn : Empowered By The Tragedy And Triumph Of The Cross, Word (2001)

  • Why, God?: Calming Words For Chaotic Times, Word (2001)

  • Wisdom For The Way: Wise Words For Busy People, J. Countryman (2001)

  • Understanding Christian Theology (with Roy B Zuck), Thomas Nelson (2003)

  • Behold—The Man!: The Pathway Of His Passion, Word (2004)

  • Getting Through the Tough Stuff: It’s Always Something! Thomas Nelson (2004)

  • So, You Want To Be Like Christ?: Eight Essentials To Get You There, Word (2005)

  • When God Is Silent (Choosing To Trust In Life’s Trials), J. Countryman (2005)

  • Great Attitudes For Graduates!: 10 Choices For Success In Life (with Terri A Gibbs), J. Countryman (2006)

  • Encouragement For Life: Words Of Hope And Inspiration, J. Countryman (2006)

  • The Strength Of Character: 7 Essential Traits Of A Remarkable Life (with Terri A Gibbs), J. Countryman (2007)

  • A Bethlehem Christmas: Celebrating The Joyful Season, Thomas Nelson (2007

  • The Owner’s Manual for Christians: The Essential Guide for a God-Honoring Life, Thomas Nelson (2009)

  • The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal, FaithWords (2010 & 2012)

  • Meet Me In The Library: Readings From 8 Writers Who Shaped My Life, IFL (2011)

  • Saying It Well: Touching Others with Your Words, FaithWords (2012)

  • Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind, Worthy (2012)

  • Living the Proverbs: Living in the Daily Grind, Worthy (2013)

Swindoll’s New Testament Insights Commentary Series

  • Insights on Romans, Zondervan (2010)

  • Insights on John, Zondervan (2010)

  • Insights on James and 1 & 2 Peter, Zondervan (2010)

  • Insights on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, Zondervan (2011)

  • Insights on Revelation, Zondervan (2012)

  • Insights on Luke, Zondervan (2012)

  • Insights on Galatians & Ephesians, Zondervan (2013)

 Profiles in Character series

  • David: A Man Of Passion & Destiny, Word (1997)

  • Esther: A Woman Of Strength & Dignity, Word (1997)

  • Joseph: A Man Of Integrity And Forgiveness, Word (1998)

  • Moses: A Man Of Selfless Dedication, Word (1999)

  • Elijah: A Man Of Heroism And Humility, Word (2000)

  • Paul: A Man Of Grace And Grit, Word (2002)

  • Job: A Man Of Heroic Endurance, Word (2004)

  • Fascinating Stories Of Forgotten Lives: Rediscovering Some Old Testament Characters, Word (2005)

  • Jesus: The Greatest Life Of All, Thomas Nelson (2008)

Honors and Awards

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Posted by on October 30, 2013 in Chuck Swindoll, Suffering

 

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