How We Suffer as Believers: Our Hearts Ache, But We Always Have Joy

by | Aug 28, 2023

We recently experienced a devastating loss in our family. It was the first time as a mom I had to share the news with my kids that someone they knew and loved deeply was gone from this Earth.

I didn’t expect it to be so hard. I wanted to lead with the positive. She is in Heaven with Jesus today! No longer suffering. But the fact is, today we are sad. There is a hole in our lives here in this broken world that will leave our hearts aching.

When I was praying for wisdom, God reminded me of one of the most powerful reminders Paul gives to the church in Corinth about the paradoxes of the Christian life:

 

We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. 

1 Corinthians 10:8-9, NLT

A paradox of the Christian life: sorrowful, yet always rejoicing

Sometimes I think about what should distinguish my life, our lives, from those who don’t’ have faith in Christ. I think Paul helps to answer this in the passage.

The reality is, as Christians, we experience deep, painful, sorrow. Cancer. Sickness. Job loss. Miscarriage. Infertility. Marital conflict. 

We also worship a Savior who experienced grief. As the prophet Isaiah described:

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.

Isaiah 53:1

God doesn’t call us to put on a fake smile and act like everything is ok. This world is broken, and that is cause for deep sorrow.

This reminds me of another paradox that Paul highlights in this passage in v. 9 in the ESV version: You see us “as dying, and behold, we live.”

Yes, we live with the reality of death and suffering in this world every day. We are crucified with Christ. But we live because Christ is our life now, and he will raise us from the dead.

A joy that is deeper

BUT. What makes us difference is in the middle of our deepest sorrow we have the greatest HOPE. It’s in our grief that we can say, God is greater! As we cry tears of mourning, we can rejoice in the fact that we know the end to the story, and it is an amazing one.

When we’re in a tough place, the well-intentioned but often throwaway social media condolences or self-help techniques feel good for maybe a moment. Alternatively faking it until we make it, or persistent optimism may work for awhile, until it doesn’t.

We have something much different to cling to as believers. We cling to the rock solid Word of God and the truth that this life is not the end.

 In the wake of the loss we experienced in our family, God reminded me of the following reminder Paul gave to the Thessalonians: 

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hopeFor since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.”

1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18

 

When we mourn the loss of a believer, we don’t sorrow as others who have no hope. Just like our heart aches when someone we love goes on a long trip. We wait expectantly knowing we will see them one day soon.

An example to our kids, and the World

So, how as moms do we communicate these beautiful, but complicated truths? A few takeaways:

1. The Christian life is full of sorrow. It’s ok to be sad. The Bible, and the life of Jesus makes this clear. We don’t need to pretend that this World is easy. 

2. The Christian life is anchored in immense hope. When we experience something extremely difficult as a family, we weep together but we also remind each other of the hope of Heaven.

3. One of the most powerful ways we communicate the Gospel is by how we handle grief. 

 

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