By the Book: Make your suffering count
by Anthony Cook
Apr 14, 2012 | 1499 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don and Britny are a young couple I married two years ago, and they stopped by my office this week for a visit.

They’re a beautiful couple, and the wedding was a beautiful ceremony at the Victoria Inn in Anniston.

It was great to see them, still basking in the glow of their young love.

They now live in another state, but they were in town for a funeral.

In fact, Britny said she’s lost several friends and relatives recently, and it seems like every time the phone rings, it’s bad news.

She asked why it is that so many godly people seem to be plucked away from us so soon, while so many mean, selfish and hurtful people seem to be thriving.

I know what she meant. When I lost my grandmother a little over a year ago, I felt the same way. Why couldn’t she stay with me a little longer? Why didn’t God heal her? Many people who aren’t nearly as faithful as her live to be much older. Why her? Why now?

I have a minister friend who lost his grandmother, another who lost his mother, both in the last two weeks. A friend recently lost her husband, and, even as I was writing this column, I received news that another friend lost her father and another lost her mother.

How are Christians supposed to deal with suffering?

First, it’s a shame when ministers preach and teach that Christians are supposed to never get sick and never have financial problems, never struggle, never suffer. That mindset is entirely unbiblical.

We should realize that Christians face the same physical, emotional, financial, relationship and societal problems as everybody else. The Bible assures us of it. But God is involved with every detail in the life of his children. Even our suffering.

Here’s why:

• God wants us to be like Jesus.

For Christians, hardships are not just empty, random happenstance. God uses misfortune to shape us into his image the way a sculptor uses a file or sandpaper to shape a sculpture.

It doesn’t feel good at the time, but he’s making us like Christ. (Romans 8:29)

God says our faith, like gold, must be tried in the fire to authenticate it and perfect it. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

When Job lost all 10 of his children and all his livestock and almost all his servants and even his health, he went through a fire that most of us will never face. But Job never stopped trusting in God, and he ended up being even closer to God than when he started.

It’s more important to God for us to be Christ-like than for us to be comfortable.

• God is sovereign. (Psalm 33:8)

Job’s trials never would have happened if God hadn’t allowed it.

The enemy couldn’t touch Job’s loved ones or his property or even his body without God’s permission.

The main lesson from the book of Job is that God is sovereign. How can anyone believe Romans 8:28 if you don’t believe that God is in control – in good times and bad?

If I understand that God caused or allowed my hardship, then my duty is to consider how he’s using it to make me more like Christ.

• It’s OK to grieve. Grieving is necessary. But we should not grieve as though we have no hope. (1 Thess. 4:13)

Job said with confidence, “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” (Job 19:26)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our hope, and one day, not only will we see God, but we’ll see our loved ones again. As long as his tomb is empty, his promise of eternal life to all believers is firm.

With that assurance, we can carry on. We can be comforted. And eventually, we can be strong again.

• Finally, our suffering prepares us to help others. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

To all my friends who have lost loved ones recently, I’m sorry for your loss. But take heart:

While you might feel hurt and helpless now, someday you’re going to be able to help someone else going through a similar hardship. And because of your words and your understanding, they’re going to see you as a source of strength.

Managing Editor Anthony Cook is pastor at Christian Fellowship Bible Church. Reach him at or 256-235-3558. On Twitter: Acook_Star.

By the Book

Anthony Cook, managing editor of the Anniston Star, has published a collection of his columns on faith, along with sermon notes and speeches.

‘By the Book’ (WestBow Press, 418 pages, $30.95) is available at LifeWay Christian store at Oxford Exchange, at Family Christian Stores at Quintard Mall, or online at or at

By the Book: Make your suffering count by Anthony Cook