Today’s post is by Brad Couick. Brad is a dear friend of mine. He recently took a pastoring position in a town outside the Raleigh-Durham area. One of the many things Brad is learning as a new pastor is how to shepherd people through suffering. In this post Brad shares some thoughts on how to guide people through their darkest days based on the truth of God’s Word. He has titled his article, “What I’ve Learned About Pastoring Through Seasons of Suffering.”
Note: This is part one of a two part series.
I’ve only been pastoring the church where I currently serve for five months, but our church has already gone through an immense amount of suffering. Our people have lost loved ones. Our people have experienced the suffering of wayward children. Additionally, many of our people are going through physical suffering. Through it all, God has shown me four truths about suffering.
Suffering is real. We live in a broken world, so suffering is one of the consequences of the fall. I realize this may seem like a no-brainer, but as a 25 year-old pastor serving a flock where the average age is 60-65 years old, suffering seems more real to me now than ever before.
Suffering is close. The last thing that our flesh wants is to be exposed to suffering. We try and avoid it all costs. But here’s the thing: Not all suffering can be avoided. Suffering is more real to me than ever before, because it’s closer to me than ever before.
Suffering hurts. Real people go through real suffering resulting in real pain. Just this past week, a dear old lady in our congregation came to me with tears in her eyes and grief in her voice and said, “Pray for my husband (who has terminal cancer), I’m not sure if he’s saved…”
Suffering is not always understandable. We would all like to know the why for suffering, but we may not always get the answer. I’ve encouraged our people to cling to Philippians 4:6-7 for peace when seeking to understand why we suffer. According to verse seven, peace comes not from understanding but from God, whose peace surpasses all understanding.
Seasons of suffering will come. They will come to the people in your church, and they will come to you. Even Jesus suffered, but He always looked to the Father for how to deal with suffering. As a pastor, it is our task to point people to Him. This is not easy by any means, especially during seasons of suffering, but it is what we’re called to do.