ONE OF THE ULTIMATE TESTS of our faith is to refuse to succumb to despair in the face of personal suffering. For those who struggle with chronic pain or some sort of overwhelming disease, the test of faith calls for the heart to look beyond the realm of appearance, where the "outward man" perishes, to the realm of ultimate healing, where the "inward man" is finally liberated from the ravages of sin and death.
Our present condition is one of a "divided house" that cannot stand. The old nature is earthbound, a creature of the dust of the earth, whereas our new nature comes from the breath of life imparted through faith in Jesus. In His infinite wisdom, God has imparted the treasure of hope in "jars of clay" so we can understand that our sufficiency comes from Him alone (Psalm 119:25; 2 Cor. 4:7).
Our natural tendency is to seek comfort and to flee from pain. We fret over the insecurities of our world and instinctively seek shelter from threats we perceive. Yet the world itself is subject to vanity (Rom. 8:20); it is pain-riddled and constrained to ongoing bereavement: "All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field" (Isa. 40:6). As Job said, "Life is but a breath" (Job 7:7).
God often uses suffering to do a "deep" work of change within us. Indeed, the tribulations of life are described using the image of the "squeezing of grapes," which yield something far more precious than any kind of this-worldly happiness. "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, prepares us for a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17).
Of course there are dark moments where pain can almost blind us to all hope. For those who know it, there are long hours where there seems no respite or consolation from affliction. But genuine faith affirms with Job that, "though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him" (Job 13:15). This is comfort we have in affliction: God's promise revives our hearts to say, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth" (Job 19:25). Even in the "shadow of the valley of death" (i.e., this moribund and broken world), the LORD is with us and comforts us with His Presence (Psalm 23:4).