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Clinging to Faith: A Close-Up View of Suffering

(ROCKWALL, TX — March 28, 2019) She sounded worried on the phone, and no wonder, her husband faced a federal indictment in connection to a former employer’s wrongdoings.

The trouble was only beginning for my friend Luann and her family. Ominous clouds closed in on their once bright lives—rich in Christian fellowship, community service, and every good thing. Over the next several years the tally of their losses would require a spreadsheet: bank accounts, investments, possessions, career, freedom, health, and—at times—peace.

Years later, many of those losses have not been restored. However, Luann clung to her undeniable right to the Savior’s promise of peace in the midst of tribulation (John 16:33). Her trusting in God sometimes featured hanging by fingertips from the edge of emotional upheaval.  

My friend’s phone call that day hit the resume button on our friendship, which had been diminished by distance after my move to another city. Our talk-time increased as Luann’s circumstances heated up, especially after her innocent husband was sent to prison. As her days grew desolate and her nights darker with fears, I became a speed-dial friend at all times. During Luann’s lowest hours, I could remind her that she’d had a better outlook the day before and that she’d likely regain it again soon.

A life crisis can produce faith questions—even for strong believers. Luann struggled to understand why God would allow injustice. I couldn’t answer, but Scripture supplied insight. When the disciples wondered whose sin had caused a man to be born blind, Jesus offered divine perspective: “that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:2, 3*).

The book of James provides specific advice to sufferers: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray” (5:13). The Matthew Henry Commentary on this verse says, “Afflictions naturally draw out complaints; and to whom should we complain but to God in prayer?” I noticed Luann benefitted most from prayer when she had felt too miserable to pray but chose to direct her lamentations upward to God.

In our times of prayer, my friend admitted things to God that she hadn’t been able to express to me. Her confessions of anger and doubt served to expose the root of whatever had troubled her soul.  Praying together also gave us opportunity to intercede for others we knew were suffering. This wider focus expanded Luann’s perspective beyond her personal world of pain.

I appreciated one close-up view of that season of suffering. The body of Christ surrounded Luann with physical care and spiritual nurture. Friends showed up with a meal or to meet practical needs like appliance repair or computer support. They covered her family with prayer and made weekly visits to prison. They texted messages of love and shared scriptures that gave comfort and hope. The church—too often the target of criticism—became more beautiful to me.

I was further blessed to witness Luann grow in the knowledge of God as she desperately tried to understand his ways through intense Bible study and devotional time. The “living and active” power of God’s word (Hebrews 4:12) soothed her anxious spirit as she chose to believe truth over her feelings—a sometimes daily challenge.

At some point in the journey of walking alongside my suffering friend, I realized that her “good fight of faith” was also mine.  None of us who follow Christ should place our hope on the uncertainties of this life but should instead “take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:12, 19).

(Scriptures taken from the English Standard Version)

By Patti Richter. Patti writes and edits Christian faith articles and has co-authored Signs of His Presence: Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering (March 2019). Read more of her essays at blueribbonnews.com/category/faith.

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