Unnecessary suffering

Many of us suffer unnecessarily because we ignore the implications of one truth: there’s nothing new under the sun [Ecclesiastes 1:9]. Whatever we go through in our lifetime has already been experienced by others who either navigated it successfully and currently stand triumphant on the other side or were defeated or broken by it. So, we can learn what works or, at the very least, what doesn’t work. But many people don’t put themselves in a position to do either. I realised not so long ago that my ignorance, not God or the devil, is the primary contributor to many of my undesirable experiences [Hosea 4:6]. Although that’s an uncomfortable truth, I find it encouraging because it means the power to change my situation lies with me.

Reflecting on this week’s message, I was reminded of something my wife and I experienced. Our children are now eleven and eight, but we had two different experiences with them as babies. It took us eleven months to get our firstborn to sleep through the night and six weeks to accomplish the same with his sister. Those eleven months with my son were exhausting. I was constantly tired, struggled at work, got into pointless arguments with my wife, and didn’t enjoy my son as much as I could have. Looking back, the resources that completely changed our experience with our second-born were available back then, but we didn’t leverage them. So, we suffered unnecessarily. What’s been more astonishing is that we share our experiences with new parents, and some ignore our advice and invariably repeat our struggles. Sadly, this isn’t unusual in other areas of life. Many undesirable experiences in our lives can be linked to ignoring or neglecting wisdom, especially for believers, because Jesus has made every provision for us to overcome our circumstances [1 John 5:4-5]. Yet, if we lack the understanding and revelation to enforce that victory in our reality, we’ll continue to suffer unnecessarily.

God never designed us to figure life out for ourselves. Consequently, He gave us His word, full of instructions on how to live but also littered with the experiences of others, good and bad, for our learning [Romans 15:4]. That word advises us to first look to Jesus – The Word incarnate, the author and finisher of our faith [Hebrews 12:2], and second, follow those who, through faith and patience, obtained what God promised them [Hebrews 6:12]. So, while Jesus is our unequivocal standard, and God is conforming us to His image in our faith walk [Romans 8:29], there are people we’d do well to emulate. Some are in the cloud of witnesses [Hebrews 12:1], but many are amongst us today, and Scripture tells us what qualities to look for in their lives: First, faith. Look for evidence they take God at His word because He always confirms His word with signs [Mark 16:20, Romans 4:20-21]. Second, patience. Look for evidence of integrity, consistency and godliness through the vagaries of life [Psalm 1:3, Proverbs 24:10, Matthew 6:33]. Lastly, ensure they’ve obtained what you’re seeking. It may be unwise to follow someone yet to experience what you desire because they may struggle to lead you where they haven’t been.

With the above in mind, do you have a godly person in your life who has attained what you’re seeking through faith and patience? People whom God has exalted are humble [1 Peter 5:6]. Consequently, they’re unlikely to share their experiences unless they perceive a willingness to listen and learn because they mentor for the sake of the kingdom, not their self-gratification. As such, it’s on us to actively seek them out and submit to mentorship on their terms, not ours. Many of us struggle with this because of our ego, especially if we’ve experienced success in other areas of life or are older than them. However, we cannot receive spiritually from someone we don’t honour because blessings flow from the greater to the lesser – who must place himself in a posture to receive [Hebrews 7:7]. Many ignore this principle and suffer unnecessarily because, in their pride, they’ve dishonoured the person who could change their situation.  

Sometimes, the people who have what we need are difficult to reach. While this is understandable, the Bible urges us to buy the truth and ensure that obtaining wisdom is our foremost pursuit [Proverbs 4:7, 23:23]. Consider the queen of Sheba: She reportedly travelled 1500 miles on camels through dangerous terrain to meet with Solomon because he had something she desired [1 Kings 10:1-13]. Many of us would’ve baulked at the journey’s peril, cost, length and inconvenience and stayed home with our problems, especially if we were in her position. But she didn’t, and she was richly rewarded. As Solomon would later instruct his son, the rewards for finding wisdom outweigh the sacrifices to obtain it [Proverbs 3:13-18]. One of those rewards is avoiding unnecessary suffering [Proverbs 4:6, 13:20]. Ultimately, the decision is ours. The world is broken, and we’re all imperfect, so we can’t avoid all suffering [John 16:33], and some suffering has value [James 1:2-4]. But if Jesus has paid for us to enjoy certain entitlements in this life [2 Peter 1:3-4], and we’re suffering because we aren’t experiencing them, something is wrong.

Are there areas where you aren’t experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised [John 10:10]? Then it’s likely you’re suffering unnecessarily because there’s either something you’ve ignored or don’t know. After everything God has done for us in Jesus, it must sadden Him to watch us suffer unnecessarily because we don’t know how to access our entitlements, doubt they’re rightfully ours or aren’t even aware that such provisions exist for us. There are people out there, further ahead in their faith journey with uncommon results, who can help us [Acts 14:17]. Make every effort to find them and humbly glean from their wisdom and experience.

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