Obviously, being a Pastor of two churches for over ten years in total, I have come to see the truth that suffering embraced in the right way leads to immense growth spiritually and can be seen as a privilege. However, when I've visited lovely people who are suffering or dying I have never wanted to have the pain that they are experiencing! I know it is not a choice. I am indeed one of the lucky ones having not experienced chronic ill health physically or mentally and I thank God for His provision. So, are those in chronic pain or dying or already dead, the 'unlucky' ones? Is it just a random thing? How can we or I say that, when we believe and KNOW that we have a loving, personal God by our side and even WITHIN us! The Holy Spirit has made His home in our hearts! I find it hard- as one not having experienced suffering- to talk about what God does in our suffering, but it is clearly a theme throughout the New Testament and in many areas of the Old Testament. Job suffered BECAUSE he was righteous. Jesus suffered BECAUSE He was perfect. I can say that some of those who I have visited who have suffered, have testified that they would rather have gone through pain and suffering than have continued their pain-free lives as they were before the chronic ill-health invaded their lives. I only hope that when such suffering comes my way that I would be able to be in such a position that I could not only cope with it, but thrive through it. Please forgive me if I have reduced the suffering of others into a mere spiritual challenge. On beginning my job at Bearfield, I made several visits to a Christian couple, where the lovely wife was dying and I've always been thankful for the way they let me, a complete stranger, into their home. Anyway, we had several communions at their house, five or six invited, and one ran over time by a few minutes, so we were interrupted by a group of nurses coming in through the front door ready to do what was necessary for her. Suffering is a messy business, but I do believe that we helped her to remain clear in her faith and her assurance that she would be soon travelling to a place where suffering was to be no more.
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