Long-suffering challenges us to rally patient endurance to get through one day at a time. Our faith is tested when we journey through extended seasons of pain, and our character development is contingent upon our reaction to hard seasons. God’s love is long-suffering towards us. We repetitively make the same mistakes, tripping as we grow into the pattern of following Christ. Yet, our faithful Father in heaven doesn’t waver in love, compassion, forgiveness or mercy. God’s word is faithful to guide us through long-suffering.
What Does the Bible Say about Long-Suffering?
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17
God’s Word lends a clear picture of how to endure, patiently. Abraham and his wife Sarah were elderly when God promised to make him the father of all nations! “Abraham’s experience reminded me that it’s not unlike God to allow his children to face situations that are hopeless from our perspective,” Sarah Walton wrote for desiringGod, “It’s precisely through these impossible situations that God expands our view of him, exercises our trust in him, and most powerfully displays his glory.”
Believing God for who He is fights our propensity to doubt, worry and despair during times of trial and suffering. Job’s Old Testament account is a well-known example of how to endure trials. His suffering was unfair, immense, and long, yet he never lost faith in God. Job modeled how to come to God with every emotion and depend on the Lord’s strength for survival. David, who underwent many bouts of suffering, wrote, “the righteous person may have troubles, but the LORD delivers them from them all.”
Christ Jesus set an example of how to endure suffering patiently. He was obedient, to the point of death on a cross. Paul further instructed Christ followers to carry each other’s burdens, and James wrote “blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)
Peter wrote, “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” (1 Peter 3:14) Christ suffered, and “the God of all grace, who called you his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10) Christ assured us life would be difficult, “but take heart!” He promised, “I have overcome the world.”
The more we learn of God’s character, the less likely we are to assume a victim status of circumstance in the midst of our suffering. Our purposeful God is good. John Piper explains five purposes: repentance, reliance, righteousness, reward, and reminder (Five Purposes for Suffering). Our Good Father is there to comfort us through injustice, and faithful to discipline hands drifting to close to the hot stove. Our lives have purpose. Suffering comes in many forms, but God remains unchanged, faithful, and reliable.
3 Promises of Hope for Those Facing Long-Suffering
Promise #1: Proof from the Past
“… but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
Old Testament stories abound of those who were rewarded for humbly seeking God’s help, and faithful people held up by the grace of God through trials. Many Old Testament Kings rose and fell in accordance to their obedience to the One True God. We can learn from their lives, and glean wisdom from God’s Word, to find comfort when facing long-suffering. The Old Testament exposes humanity’s need for a Savior, and consistently points to the coming of Jesus, God’s plan all along. “In the beginning was the Word,” John recorded, “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” (John 1:1)
Jesus is the greatest expression of God’s love for us. All are welcome to come to Him, through Christ. When we are enduring suffering without a known end, we can be assured His strength will kick in to carry us through. To follow Christ is to be obedient to God’s Word, and the Truth He speaks in our lives through prayer, reading Scripture, and through the godly people He has placed in our lives. If we submit to His authority in our lives over our own, we discover the ability to go through hard things with hope. We retain our joy in Jesus, though life is full of pain, lacking answers, and devoid of solutions.
God’s character is unchanging. He is love. He is powerful, compassionate and just. His mercy in endless, and His forgiveness never runs dry. He is close to the brokenhearted. We can look back to stories of past lives, even moments in our own lives, and know He is with us through our current suffering and will always be.
Promise #2: Present in the Here and Now
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
Here and now, Christ is with us. By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Jesus remains in every believer. Our hope comes from His constant companionship.
When a child is playing happily, they don’t need their parents and guardians, all but for entertainment purposes, perhaps to participate in their game or conversation. But when they are hurt, scared, and unable to fix or comfort themselves, our children come running to us in desperation. It doesn’t matter the age, we all run up against circumstances that leave us desperate for guidance, and in need to ease physical and emotional pain. When my daughter smacked her hand on the ground hard enough to break three fingers, she came running to me in desperation, suffering from the immediate physical pain, and then leaned on me through the long-suffering recovery, emotionally.
How much more is our Father in heaven, who told us we would have trouble in this world, prepared to comfort us through long-suffering? Disease, depression, depravity, disgraceful strongholds of sin … whatever the suffering is, He is ready with arms open wide to help us navigate one day at a time. Our comfort is found in Him, and He alone. We were created to seek comfort from our Creator … here and now.
Promise #3: Jesus will Heal Every Hurt
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4
Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father but will return to right all wrongs and heal all hurts. Paul wrote to the Philippians that Jesus was “in very nature God, but did not consider equality with God something to be used to His advantage; rather, He took the very nature of a servant, in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:6-7)
Jesus suffered more than most will ever be called to endure in this life. He empathizes with our pain and weakness.We can look ahead with hope because of who He is, and His promised return.
When we praise God through suffering, He rewards our obedience with peace and hope, a sweet relief better than any balm this life can offer. The source of our hope must be rooted in Christ. From Him, all love flows. When we seek Christ first, when God sits on the throne of our hearts, we are able to see through His perspective. We may not find the answers we seek or the end to pain we are praying for, but we can trust God has a plan for our lives. His good plan is evidenced by the empty cross. Jesus resurrected, He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will return again, and eliminate all suffering, death and sadness. Our pain and suffering on this earth is long, but not eternal.
How Can We Share Hope with Others Who Are Suffering?
Prayer is a powerful way we can help those who are suffering. Direct conversation with the One True God is a gift Jesus died to grant us. Long-suffering can steal the words from our prayers. We need others to intercede faithfully on our accord.
Injustice is long-suffering, and we can be a voice of truth and lend a friendly smile as we walk alongside those fighting for fairness. Christ calls us to stand up and speak out for those who are suffering in this way, and we can share our hope with those who are suffering by starting the conversation in our own homes and allowing it to branch out into our lives. Love has the power to change, comfort, and clarify.
Generosity gives hope to those who are suffering. When we can help meet the physical needs of people who are poor and hungry, sick and in need, their hearts naturally become curious of where our love and hope come from. We get to share of our Savior, who comes alongside us in our long-suffering … and is present in theirs. Our lives are meant to glorify God. We get to participate in His great plan, to draw every precious person to Him through Christ.
Before we know Christ, we are separated from our Father in heaven. Long-suffering can feel like separation. For those of us in Christ, the Truth of Scripture reminds us we are never alone. Reach out for prayer and lend it to those enduring impossible seasons of pain and hardship. For those who don’t know Jesus, we can meet their physical needs and comfort their emotional needs … stand and fight for justice alongside them, and generously share of the hope we have in Jesus. When we make ourselves available to His call on our lives, we get to participate in the strength of our Savior.
A Prayer for Those Enduring Long-Suffering
This is the day You have made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. You sit sovereign, in endless love and compassion for us. Nothing gets our attention like pain, physical and emotional. Heal our sin-sick souls, Father. We were never promised this life would be easy, but it still shocks us when cancer is diagnosed, pandemics are let loose on our lives, and tragedy changes the trajectory of our plans in an instant. When we are reeling, our only source of true comfort is You. Through prayer, Your Word, and those You place around us, we can travel through long-suffering in patience. We pray Your strength over our lives. Remind us, by the power of Your Spirit, we are never alone and always loved. Bless and heal all feelings of abandonment in his world, Father. May every heart be softened to know You through Christ. Let no one be separated from You or lack the healing comfort only You can provide. Father, You know our hearts, and their intentions, better than we. Search, heal, renew and cleanse our hearts, to mirror Christ Jesus.
In Jesus’ powerful name we pray,
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Meg, freelance writer and blogger at Sunny&80, is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” and “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” She writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay at home and raise her two daughters, which led her to pursue her passion to write. She has led a Bible Study for Women and serves as a Youth Ministry leader in her community. Meg, a Cleveland native and lifelong Browns fan, lives by the shore of Lake Erie in Northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters, and golden doodle.