Last week I wrote about heaven as our ultimate home; the place Christians should long for; the place we belong. I want to follow-up on what I said about heaven by talking about suffering. Your immediate reaction may be, What does suffering have to do with heaven? After all, heaven is supposed to be the antithesis of suffering. Doesn’t the Bible say that God will wipe away all tears in heaven? It does (Rev 21:4) and it’s true that there won’t be any suffering in heaven. But what about suffering in this life? Is it possible that suffering in the life of the Christian now is somehow related to heaven?
Recently I read an interesting article about suffering. The writer said some things that grabbed my attention. After reviewing the persecution, poverty and deprivation that many Christians have experienced down through history, he said this: life on this earth is temporary. Our focus should be upon the eternal life we will enjoy when our short stay here is finished. If this life is too pleasant we may neglect to seek first the eternal kingdom of God.
Is it possible that suffering in this life has the unintended (or perhaps intended) consequence of moving our hearts toward home (IE heaven)? Does God use suffering in our lives so we don’t become too comfortable, too complacent, too “at home” here? Does God know that without some discomfort here we will become indifferent toward heaven? That we need suffering in order to make us homesick for heaven? It’s an interesting thought.
That brings up another thought: if one of the purposes of suffering in this life is to make us homesick for heaven, should our goal in this life be to avoid suffering at all possible costs? After all if that is the purpose of suffering then in the larger scheme of eternity, suffering is for our benefit. It sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true: suffering can be beneficial.
The writer of Hebrews brings out this thought when he says For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings (Hebrews 2:10). How could Jesus, the sinless Son of God, be made perfect? The word perfect has the idea of achieving the highest goal. Through His suffering and ultimately His death, Jesus achieved the goal He came for – the salvation of men (Mark 10:45). In this case His suffering was for our good and He chose not to avoid it. While any suffering is unpleasant and none of us go out looking for it, to avoid all suffering may work against what God is trying to accomplish in your life. It may be that God wants you to long for heaven more than for this world and He accomplishes that through suffering.
If you are going through a season of suffering I want to leave you with a note of encouragement from the writings of the Apostle Paul. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18). Neither the intensity nor the duration of your suffering can compare to what God has prepared for you “at home”.
Stay in the Word