How to Find God's Mercy Amidst Suffering
- Monday, July 18, 2011
Editor's Note: This article summarizes the practical applications of Palmer Chinchen's recent book, God Can’t Sleep: Waiting for Daylight on Life’s Dark Nights, (David C. Cook, 2011).
Suffering is all around you in this fallen world, and sometimes it’s so tragic that it’s heartbreaking. Yet God promises that He is loving and merciful. How can you reconcile these two realities that seem like they compete against each other?
The key is to look for God’s mercy, even when it seems like it can’t coexist with the suffering you encounter. God’s mercy is a stronger force than even the worst suffering, and when you look for it, you’ll find it.
Here’s how you can find God’s mercy in the midst of suffering:
Look for God beside you. God promises to be close to you when you feel brokenhearted. Remember that when God came to Earth as Jesus, He experienced what a broken human heart felt like as He endured suffering firsthand in our fallen world. Nothing can ever separate you from God’s deep, unconditional love; He cares about what you’re going through. If you can’t sense His presence with you, pray, asking God to comfort you by making you aware of His Spirit nearby.
Realize that some parts of faith only grow in the dark. God uses the darkness of suffering to teach you valuable spiritual lessons that you couldn’t learn in the bright light of good times. When you must travel through dark circumstances, be confident that you won’t emerge from them the same as you were before. Expect to grow into a stronger person as God’s redemptive purposes unfold in your life through suffering. Ask God to show you specific ways in which He wants to bring good out of your pain.
Ask God for the help you need to overcome sin. Face the reality that much of the suffering in our fallen world is caused by human sin. But count on the fact that God is merciful toward all sinners. Whenever you recognize a situation in which some of your own sin has contributed to your suffering, pray for help, and God will give you the strength you need to overcome sin. Stop holding onto any sinful secrets that have been causing guilt, shame, and bitterness in your soul. Confess your sins specifically, repent of them, accept the forgiveness that God offers you, and embrace the power that God gives you to move forward into a better life.
Listen for God speaking in the silence. When your suffering becomes so painful that you can’t make any sense of it or figure out how to endure it, you may feel as if you’re trapped in silence, since nothing that other people say or do to try to help actually breaks through to you. But when you’re at the point where you don’t hear anything else, you can actually hear God best, since you’re less likely to get distracted by the world’s noise around you. In the silence, pour out your thoughts and feelings to God in prayer, and then listen to what He has to say to you. God won’t shout, but He will whisper, to encourage you to keep drawing closer to Him.
Ask God for the faith to move forward even when you’re afraid. It’s natural to feel fear when you’re going through suffering, but God will give you the faith you need to do whatever you need to do, even while you’ll struggling with fear. Rather than asking God to take away your fear, ask Him to give you the faith you need to overcome it. View each crisis you go through as an opportunity to express your faith in God’s power to sustain you.
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