In the last post (Identifying with the Sufferer without excusing his sin), we suggested a couple homework assignments. In this post I would like to follow up on that homework – specifically on the points of suffering. As you begin to unpack the counselee’s journal on suffering what are you hoping they will say? What is it about Psalm 25 or other truths from the Word of God that you are hoping they have grasped and applied?
Here are just a few points worth noting…
1. Does your counselee admit the pain associated with the suffering?
In Psalm 25 David describes the depth of his struggle. He talks about shame (v. 2), enemies (c. 2), dealing treacherously (v. 3), lonely (v. 16), afflicted (v. 16), troubles of my heart (v. 17), and many other similar words or phrases. In other words, David is brutally honest about the struggles that he faces. It is good for our counselees to follow this biblical pattern.
2. Does your counselee run to the Lord and His people?
David’s suffering is not compounded by his own foolishness. Instead, David goes to the place where hope and help can be found. When life seems so out of control people tend to run away from God, away from His people, and away from His Word. But David runs to the Lord and to His Word for strength and help. Is that what your counselee did? Did they look to the Lord (See Psalm 25 v. 1, vv. 4-7, vv. 16-22)
3. Does your counselee rest in the character of a good and perfect God?
Suffering has a way of bringing out our true trust, our true goals, and our true desires. It is in the midst of suffering that we discover our “real” view of God. For David, God is awesome. God is good. God is the place of satisfaction. The reality of that statement comes through in vv. 8-15. In this description of the Lord, the reader is reminded of the rest, the satisfaction, and the blessing that is found in the Lord even in the midst of external circumstances that are difficult.
Suffering, if responded to properly, helps us find satisfaction in our relationship with the Lord. Suffering, if responded to properly, leads us to trust in his character even if we don’t understand why the suffering needs to be so intense.
While Psalm 25 does discuss the matter of eternity, many passages in the NT do. In other words, responding to suffering in the NT includes the expected return of the Lord Jesus and the associated blessings of living with the Lord forever. In fact, Titus 2:11-14 encourages us to look for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ. So living post-cross gives us, as NT believers, even more encouragement to run to the Lord and cling to his awesome character.
If you can help your counselees be honest about their suffering, run to the Lord and to His people, find rest and hope in a good and perfect God, and help them long for the return of the Lord then you will have equipped them to biblically handle the challenges in their lives that come from others.