Letter (to a Suffering Saint)

Hey friends – I hope this letter finds you well. I was writing because I heard of your most recent struggles and difficulties. Friend, I am so sorry for all that is happening. God calls us to “weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15), and – believe me – we have wept with, and for, you. I cannot imagine the struggle this is. Please know that we pray for you regularly, and I know others are praying as well. Even when we cannot be present with you, our hearts are certainly with you. Please know you’re not forgotten.

As I sat and prayed for you, I felt the need to write for a couple of reasons. First, I just wanted to say – as I did above – that we love you and hurt with, and for, you. Second, I also felt compelled to write and remind you of a couple of things – a couple of truths God has given us to hold on to in the midst of our struggles. I hope and pray that this will not sound trite to you. I am certainly not trying to “heal wounds lightly”. I am fully aware that knowing truth does not always change the way we feel. Hurt and sadness are not wrong in themselves. However, I do know we have an enemy who wants to devour us (1 Pet. 5:8). He has no compassion, and he will not leave you alone simply because this is a difficult season. He will shoot his darts at you with no mercy. So as your brother and pastor, I want to do my best to remind you of the truth – to encourage and exhort you so you are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13). So here you go…

First, remember that none of your struggles have caught God by surprise and none of them are out of His control. Jesus Himself said we would have trouble in this world (John 16:33). Paul and Barnabas encouraged the early church to continue in the faith while saying that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). This is our reality after Genesis 3. We are sinful people living with other sinful people in a fallen, broken world that is under the power of the evil one. But here is the hope in that: God is fully aware and sees and knows and has ordained even these troubles and tribulations. Every one of our days was written before it even came to pass (Ps. 139:16). He knew where you would be and what would be happening and what you would be doing and ordained it to happen. Remember this first: God has not lost control. The trials and troubles are part of His plan.

Why would He choose to do it that way? I cannot give a full and complete answer. But I do know that God sometimes allows His people to be “given over to death…so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:11). I know that sometimes God does not deliver us from trouble because His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:7-11). I also know that does not take away the pain. But one more thing I know: we are not alone in our suffering. Our Savior suffered and knows what it is like to suffer and has promised to give us grace and mercy to help in our suffering (Heb. 4:16). It is not angels that He helps, it is us. Whatever happens, do not let the trial and trouble drive you away from God. Let it drive you to Him. I am more and more convinced that this is one of the main purposes of our trials – to draw us closer to Him. I pray that you would do so – so that you might receive His comfort and care and help and strength.

One other thing I would beg you not to forget: this is not the end, and suffering and trial will cease before the end comes. Days and months and years can seem like eternity in the midst of trial, but ultimately, they are not eternal. Right now, we do not yet see everything in subjection to Jesus. But we do know that Jesus is crowned with glory and honor and that one day, He will bring us to glory as well (Heb. 2:8-10). Do not forget that God has said that the sufferings of this life are not worth comparing with the glory to be revealed. One day the sons of God will be fully revealed and all our groaning will end (Rom. 8:18-25). Do not forget that God is working all things together for your good (Rom. 8:28). Do not forget that this present affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Do not lose heart, friend – look to the things you cannot see and not just the things you can see. Do not forget that one day we will meet the Lord in the air and be with Him forever (1 Thess. 4:17). Do not forget that one day He will wipe away every tear and there will be no death or mourning or crying or pain (Rev. 21:4). Remember that hope, and let it carry you through the present.

May the grace of Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you. As I said, we love you deeply and pray for you regularly. Grace to you and peace, friend.