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Why intense suffering?

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British citizens, Paul and Rachel Chandler have been held hostage in Somalia for more than seven months.  They have endured beatings and solitary confinement for periods of up to 100 days.  Recently, a local Somali journalist was able to interview them for ITN.

Noticeably fatigued but resilient, Mrs. Chandler spoke of their solitary confinement. "We are just animals to them. We have been kept caged up like animals," she says. Her husband Paul refers to their ordeal as "kidnapping and extortion and even torture." He explains that they have been married for almost 30 years, and that being separated from each other is more painful than the beatings or the imprisonment. To him, being separated in captivity is the "real torture."

Whether it is a situation like what the Chandlers are experiencing, or the tragic loss of a loved one, or enduring a painful and possibly terminal illness—instances of intense suffering force deep questions of faith.

How do you "count it all joy when you fall into various trials" when the trial is overwhelming and all seems hopeless (James 1:2)?

For a Christian, these are spiritual questions and there must be spiritual answers.

Sometimes, intense suffering is the result of our own sins…and all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Sometimes it is time and chance (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Sometimes it is for others to exercise Christian love by pleading with God on the sufferer's behalf in intercessory prayer (James 5:16). Sometimes it is for us to learn the lesson from Job. Job was much more righteous than any of us, but he had to learn humility in the face of God's righteousness (Job 42:1-6). Sometimes it is simply to glorify and to honor God (John 9:2-3).

Regardless of why God allows us to suffer, a mature Christian remembers to "with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 15:6). And a true Christian remembers that Christ is our great and compassionate High Priest, who does understand our infirmities (Hebrews 4:14-15). "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (v. 16).

We must remember that a Christian's ultimate goal is to inherit immortality in the Kingdom of God (I Corinthians 15:53-54). How does one enter into the Kingdom of God? "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

God is preparing true Christians for His kingdom. And some are allowed to suffer more than others. But our sufferings are nothing compared to what the perfect Son of God willingly suffered on our behalf. And few if any of us ever have or ever will experience what John the Baptist, Paul, Peter, or most of the other Apostles suffered.

Through suffering, we grow to yearn for the fulfillment of Revelation 21:4, when "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Through suffering, we learn to cry out to God that the world would turn from sin, brutality and lawless (Ezekiel 9:4). Through suffering, our prayer becomes sincere when we cry out, "Thy kingdom come!" (Luke 11:2)

Pray for those who are ill. Pray for those who are suffering. Please pray for the Chandlers' safe release. Perhaps their kidnappers will be merciful. Perhaps the British government will be able to intervene. But the Chandlers' plight is only one small but terrible example of the suffering that this world endures. This is why the world so desperately needs Christ's return!

To learn how to pray more effectively, please request Twelve Keys to Answered Prayer. To learn more about the wonderful coming Kingdom of God and your part in it, please request Your Ultimate Destiny.