Our sufferings teach us to be more fervent in prayer.
Bad times have the effect of driving men to pray. We have perhaps heard or read accounts of godless men who defied God all their lifetime but at the height of a personal crisis, when their pain was almost certainly unbearable, they cried out to God or some deity or mysterious higher power.
En route to Tarshish, the ship Jonah was aboard was thrown into a fearsome storm. It was God calling out to His errant prophet. The sailors were desperately trying to keep the ship afloat, “and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them”. It was no use, and “the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god” (Jon 1:5).
The wearied Jonah was actually asleep while the storm threatened to sink them to the bottom of the sea. “So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not” (Jon 1:6).
It is not shameful to cry for help and relief. This ‘instinct’, if we may use the term, to call out to God in our most fervent need is common to all men. We look to someone who can grant us relief and provide us answers. We know, as the apostle Paul pointed out, that there is a God in heaven. (Cf. Romans 1:19-20)
Our afflictions can be instruments to remind us to remember and seek God; a wake-up call if ever there was one. In good times we tend to be rather careless in prayer. We present our requests as if we are not really concerned if God hears us. In a sense, we are not quite conscious of our needs.
Afflictions wake us to our needs. Prayer is the avenue granted to us to approach the throne of grace, where “we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). It is a spiritual blessing we enjoy in Christ, but one which sadly is most neglected.
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Php 4:6).
“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Col 4:2).
“Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1Th 5:17-18).
Prayer is not only during good times. It is also not to be utilized only in bad times. Prayer is for all times.
The Lord Jesus exemplifies for us a life of fervent prayer. During His public ministry, He would make time out of a busy schedule to commune with His Father. “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12).
The Lord told the Parable of the Persistent widow “that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). Prayer is a daily spiritual discipline. If we neglect it during times of ease, we will feel out of place trying to call upon God in times of need.
Our sufferings teach us to ponder upon the sufferings of the Lord for our sakes.
Christ suffered immensely to redeem us from our sins, unite us in His body and grant us all spiritual blessings, including the status as children of God. Once a week during the Lord’s Supper, saints all over the world remember His agony on the cross.
Men are forgetful creatures. Over time, we can easily forget the hardship of those who came before us and the price they paid to achieve what we have today. It is the same with the sufferings of our Lord. When was the last time you are truly moved by what the Son of God has done for you?
Consider the lashes upon His back. Can you imagine the same cruel lashes upon your own back? Now think of the crown woven of thorns. See the blood flow from wounds as the soldiers callously press it onto His head. What if it were your head subject to such abuse?
Think of the emotional abuse when the soldiers and Jews hurl insults on Him. The rejection as the masses scream in unison, “Crucify Him!” The humiliation when they blindfolded Him, slapped Him, and spat upon Him. Can any of us endure these?
Now see the nails driven into His hands and feet. Hear the heavy sound as the hammer falls. Do you ever consider, “It should have been my hands and feet?” Indeed, it should have been our hands and feet! But He took it all upon Himself.
Why? Because He loves us.
As we bear up with Christian dignity our own sufferings and afflictions, spare some thoughts for His. Think also of the temporary nature of our pain. Soon it shall pass. The day draws ever nearer when the Lord shall wipe away every tear.
Even as we are baffled by sufferings in this world, remember the Lord and His grace. He has promised that we shall not be tested beyond our ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that we may be able to endure it. (1Co 10:13)
The Lord has said, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” So let us humble ourselves and declare, as the apostle did. “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2Co 12:9).