Skip content to go to the blog's navigation

« John Ortberg Encourages Small-Group Leaders | Main | A Resource to Avoid Awkward Moments »

February 29, 2012

What Would You Tell Your Small-Group Members?

Talking about suffering in small group


I hope you're ready for some discussion because I've got a big question for you.

It never ceases to amaze me how deeply people are hurting, specifically as I listen to prayer requests during small-group meetings. It's enough to make your heart break. And if you aren't currently hurting, chances are that someone close to you is. Suffering is simply part of our earthly existence.

So what do you say when a group member turns to you and asks what place suffering has in God's compassionate will? Not why suffering exists . . . but what God might be doing in and through it. How would you respond in a way that is true to the Word and recognizes this group member's deep suffering?

Share your responses with us below. Let's see if we can come up with a helpful answer together.

posted by Amy Jackson on February 29, 2012 11:13 AM

Related Tags: Discussion Question, Pain, Suffering


Everyone has their own cross to carry.For some people heavier than the others. It isn't easy to open up with a group easily until a certain amount of trust has been established. And that is the beauty of a small group because it is easier to build the feeling of rapport and closeness.

You’re so right. There are so many times that I can see the pain in my students’ faces—particularly those who are a bit older, in their teens. I always have a hard time answering the question of what role suffering has in God’s will—in fact, it stumps me more times than not. So I’m most interested to see what your other readers have to say in response to this post.

Gods ways are not our ways or His thoughts our thoughts. We would all like to avoid suffering. And yet, He obviously allows it, even for the saints, for His disciples, for Job--a righteous man, and ye, even for Jesus. If the Father would allow His perfect Son to suffer, we can certainly expect to also. But we want to understand more than that.

There are many things the Lord teaches His children through suffering. I'm sure it is not a full answer, but some verses that give a glimpse into one reason are James 1:2-4. "Consider it all joy, my brethren when you encounter various trials."

(Consider it joy? If I'm considering it joy, I won't be asking why! - A sign my faith is being tested, and my response shows I need to grow in faith in this area.)

"knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance."
(I've read this verse all my life, but until recently, it never occurred to me that endurance was a key character quality that God wants me to develop. Trials help us develop an important character quality.)

"And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
(Perfect? Complete? Lacking nothing? --You mean I can have everything I need to do what God has prepared for me to do?
Yes, If I develop endurance and let it mature in me!)

How do I do that? By learning to trust the love and goodness of God enough that I can rejoice in suffering!

In short, one reason the Lord allows suffering is to build our faith and trust in Him. It is only in suffering that we learn that He is sovereign and good and is with us each step of the journey.

A key question is how does God want me to respond to suffering so I will grow through it and not be crushed.

The grace for suffering is found by focusing on the Lord rather than on the problem. When we focus on the problem we are overwhelmed by doubts. When we focus on the Lord and cry out to Him for help and strength, He lifts us up and give us the grace for the challenge before us. (Look at the story of Peter walking on the water as an illustration for this.)

There is much more. Look up suffering, trials, and synonyms in the concordance and you can learn more by looking at the different passages. I've just shared a taste from my recent experience. The Lord has special grace that is available for who suffer. However, He does not cram it down our throats and we won't get it by osmosis. It is available if we look to Him, open our hearts to Him, cry out to Him, recognize our need for Him . . . --i.e. if we humble ourselves rather than trying to live in our own strength.

This talk by Emmerson Eggerich answers the question with passion, compassion and conviction.

Post a comment:

Verification (needed to reduce spam):