Editor’s note: The following is a report on the practical application of Michael A. Milton's book, Songs in the Night: How God Transforms Our Pain to Praise (P&R Publishing, 2011).
Jesus said that we would all have trouble in this fallen world. So we expect suffering to enter our lives, but when it does, we often try to get through it as fast as possible rather than asking God what we can learn from it.
If you choose to embrace your suffering rather than running from it, your pain can turn to praise as God brings good purposes out of the suffering he has allowed into your life. Here’s how you can respond to suffering by inviting God to turn your pain into praise:
Offer your suffering to God. Rather than pleading with God to take your suffering away, view it as a gift that God has allowed to come to you so you will seek Him more and experience His grace in deeper ways. Keep in mind that the same thing that evil forces may intend to destroy you can become what leads you to experience more of God’s blessings in your life. What will determine whether your suffering leads to negative or positive results in your life is how you respond to it. Decide that you will respond to any type of suffering – from illness, grief, broken relationships, financial problems, depression, etc. – by surrendering it to God in prayer, asking Him to use it for good in your life and trusting Him to do so.
Invite Jesus to help you through life’s storms. Jesus experienced the depths of human suffering during His time on Earth, so He knows what you’re going through. Jesus chose to go through extreme suffering on the cross to pay for people’s sins, so He cares about what you’re going through. Realize that while you’re dealing with the storms of suffering, Jesus is available to go through them with you, giving you the peace you need in the midst of the storms and guiding you wisely through them. Connect with Jesus frequently through prayer as you’re going through storms to gain the perspective and help you need.
Know that Jesus is praying for you. You can trust Jesus, because He has prayed for you to trust Him – and He prayed that before He died for your sins and before you were born. Today, Jesus continues to pray for you in heaven. You can rest assured that Jesus will take whatever weakness that you entrust to Him and infuse it with His strength so you can grow through suffering.
Expect God to redeem your suffering. Let your suffering help you see your need for a Savior, and keep in mind that your personal story of suffering is part of the greater story of how God is redeeming the world through Jesus. Give your lost causes, hopeless situations, and broken dreams to God, and expect Him to redeem them somehow, because He wants the best for you.
Embrace God’s kindness to you. God loves you unconditionally, and He kindly offers you mercy, despite your sins. Feel free to come to Him just as you are. Expect Him to warmly welcome you and give you all the grace you need to overcome the suffering in your life.
Confess and repent of your sins to begin receiving healing from God. Whenever you recognize a connection between your suffering and some type of sin in your life, confess that sin in prayer to God, and turn away from it completely. By doing so, you invite God to start healing you of the damage that sin has caused in your life.
Be confident that your suffering won’t prevent God from accepting you or using your life. Rest assured that God has accepted you because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for you on the cross, and nothing that you suffer can ever change that fact. Rejoice that, not only will your suffering not disqualify you from serving God, but the specific ways in which you’ve suffered can actually become the greatest ways in which God can use your life to help redeem the world. When you suffer in a certain area of your life, you develop compassion for other people who are also suffering in that area (for example, you can care more about cancer patients after you’ve overcome cancer yourself). If you respond to your suffering by offering it to God to transform into something He will use to bless others, you may find that your greatest ministry grows out of your deepest suffering.
Trust God even when people betray you. When people you had once thought you could trust betray your trust, you need to set boundaries with them to protect yourself until they earn back your trust (if they ever do). But you can still live in faith, even when people have betrayed you, because God is always trustworthy and you can choose to trust God in any situation – even those involving difficult people. Ask God to take what people intended for evil and use it to accomplish something good in your life.
Overcome your regrets. Although there are consequences to the choices that you’ve made in the past, God is always willing to forgive you for your mistakes and help you learn from them. Be honest with God about your regrets and ask Jesus to help you move forward with the peace that only He can give.
Remember that God will complete the good work He has begun in you. Healing from suffering is a process. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be patient throughout the healing process, however long it takes. Trust in God’s promise to complete the healing work that He begins in you.
Live in ways that will help other people seek God in their own suffering. Ask God to empower you to live with integrity and love, so you’ll inspire others to learn more about your faith. When people ask about your faith, tell them stories about how God has helped you overcome suffering by turning your pain to praise. Show others who are suffering that God’s love is stronger than any pain.
Adapted from Songs in the Night: How God Transforms Our Pain to Praise, copyright 2011 by Michael A. Milton. Published by P&R Publishing, Philipsburg, NJ, www.prpbooks.com.
Michael A. Milton and his family live in Charlotte, North Carolina, and he is the host of the national Bible teaching television program Faith for Living, a songwriter and recording artist, and the author of numerous books and articles. Previously he was the senior minister of the historic First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee and is currently Chancellor and CEO elect of Reformed Theological Seminary and the James M. Baird Jr. Professor of Pastoral Theology, there.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles. Contact Whitney at: email@example.com to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.
Publication date: September 17, 2012