How does the Bible help us handle suffering?

Unfortunately, suffering - and news about suffering - is inevitable.

The constant exposure to negative news affects our mental and emotional health.

Over time, the barrage of discouragement can also weaken our spiritual vitality.

My own struggles have sometimes led me to question God. Can he do anything about this? Does he care? Is he with me?

When my soul is troubled, and the world seems chaotic, it can be hard to maintain perspective.

I was encouraged by Psalm 33 this morning (part of today’s liturgical reading).

As I meditated on it, here’s how I see that this Scripture helps us handle troubling circumstances and bad news:

First, God knows that there is chaos:

The LORD frustrates the counsel of the nations;
he thwarts the plans of the peoples.

But look, the LORD keeps his eye on those who fear him—
those who depend on his faithful love
to rescue them from death
and to keep them alive in famine.

Whether trouble comes from powerful nations or failed crops, God sees and knows what we are enduring.

Everyone has hard times. At least we have God’s presence with us as we go through them.

Second, one strategy for responding to our suffering is to praise God!

This is a bit surprising, but it is powerful. It takes our eyes off our troubles and refocuses our hearts on God’s goodness.

Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous ones;
praise from the upright is beautiful.

For the word of the LORD is right,
and all his work is trustworthy.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the LORD’s unfailing love.

It is an act of faith, but to trust that the earth is full of God’s love - that my heart is filled with God’s love - is medicine to my troubled soul.

Especially when I’m weighed down, it helps me to play worship music. I can draw strength from the music when I don’t have much within me.

Third, we remember that God is in charge:

Given the evident power of Presidents and billionaires… or simply our inability to control the weather, we can start to feel helpless. What can we do to change our circumstances? It can seem hopeless.

Psalm 33 challenges our pessimism. It says that God is in charge!

The heavens were made by the word of the LORD,
and all the stars, by the breath of his mouth.

For he spoke, and it came into being;
he commanded, and it came into existence.

The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
the plans of his heart from generation to generation.

If God can create everything by speaking, then he can accomplish all of his purposes within Creation, too.

Fourth, we live by faith, trusting in God’s care for us

But look, the LORD keeps his eye on those who fear him—
those who depend on his faithful love

We wait for the LORD;
he is our help and shield.
For our hearts rejoice in him
because we trust in his holy name.
May your faithful love rest on us, LORD,
for we put our hope in you.

Though God sees everything and everyone, he especially looks upon his beloved. We are not just his creation but his children.

There’s good reason to continue to trust in God. Why? Because he is thoroughly good, trustworthy, and faithful.

Knowing that God will take care of us - in this life, and certainly for eternity - brings us joy when we are tempted to despair.

I used to believe that having faith meant not having negative emotions. Now, I believe there’s a richer, more complex reality. It’s that in the midst of darkness, God is also there as a light. I don’t have to stuff my feelings to be ‘religious’; instead, I can be emotionally present to all my feelings, even as I wait for the Lord. (I cover this topic in more detail in 12 Steps to God).

Some questions…

  1. How does negative news affect your view of God?
  2. What helps you praise God when life is difficult?
  3. How have you seen God care for you in challenging circumstances?
  4. How does Psalm 33 encourage you to live by faith?