To be human means to be capable of suffering.
Those who have experienced chronic pain, clinical depression, or serious illnesses of any sort are all too familiar with this fact. In many cases, the sufferer is surrounded by individuals who are not so familiar with suffering and whose best advice seems just about useless if not upsetting.
The scriptures don’t offer magical incantations or curt advice. The Bible does, however, acknowledge the situation. If you’re like me, you appreciate it when your sacrifices or difficulties are at least acknowledged rather than undermined or ignored.
God acknowledges that people suffer bitterly.
Elijah prayed earnestly to God that he might die right then and there. (1st Kings 19:3-5)
David drenched his pillow with tears as he cried at night. (Psalm 6:6-7)
Job spends the entire 26 verses of Job chapter 3 cursing the day he was born. He asks:
“Why did I not perish at birth,
and die as I came from the womb?
Why were there knees to receive me
and breasts that I might be nursed?
For now I would be lying down in peace;
I would be asleep and at rest.”
God could have left these accounts out of His word if He had wanted to ignore the reality of our pain.
God’s word also acknowledges that cheap advice is frustrating and doesn’t work. The book of Job contains almost 30 chapters of Job’s friends providing useless and accusatory suggestions instead of gently supporting him. At the end of the book, Job’s friends are asking him to pray for them because of their foolishness.
Paul, whose suffering included numerous severe beatings, lashings, shipwrecks, imprisonments, and physical ailments (2 Corinthians 11:23-29, Galatians 4:13) did not offer any cute little pieces of advice, but he did give us some hope to hold onto:
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Corinthians 8:18)