His grace is sufficient for us, His power is made perfect in weakness (Update of the article, “No matter what…”)

Above is a video presentation of this article.

A Biblical study on suffering

Joni Erickson was seventeen years old when she dove off a pier in a lake, hit a rock underneath the water and was paralyzed from the shoulders down. She was a Christian and this shook her faith. As time went on many Christians prayed for her to be able to walk again. She believed God could do that but it never happened. Many people communicated to her that her lack of healing was caused by a lack of faith or hidden sin. She just didn’t believe enough that God would heal her, they said.

Is that what the Bible says about suffering, that if we just believe enough we can basically “make” God heal us or deliver us from hard times? Did Joni just lack having enough faith? Was God’s grace not sufficient enough?

The following are some examples from the Bible that deal with this. In this world we experience many problems. Most of us have undoubtedly passed through times of suffering, sickness, distress or abuse, “weaknesses” which we felt we could not bear, so it is something we all must deal with and generates many questions and doubts about God and His love.


When we are in the middle of difficult times we may be able to relate to Jesus’ statement that it is like “a cup of suffering.” He was about to suffer greatly over the next twenty-four hours with the mocking, beating, abuse and inhumane crucifixion. His greatest suffering was revealed when He said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” All the sins of the world were placed on Him; He died in our place; and for a short time He was made to be sin. He became an anathema. While in Gethsemane Jesus knew what lay ahead and Mark 14:36 shares how He faced the situation, praying: “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Jesus prayed that those awful coming hours would be taken away. Luke says He was sweating blood, a sign of extreme stress. He returned three times to pray the same thing and still endured unspeakable suffering.

Jesus’ example for us was to ask God for deliverance. We may yearn for deliverance, cry for it, plead for it, pray over and over about it, rebuke the devil. We can also search our own heart for unforgiveness or other sins. Jesus was sinless and yet still suffered. But in the end, no matter what let us, like Jesus, keep loving God, keep seeking His will, rest in His grace and never doubt that He loves us. Jesus told his disciples to prepare for hard times, warning them in John 16:33: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Paul declares in Romans 8:35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” He then goes on to list fifteen things that cannot separate us from His love, ending with: “nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This passage makes it clear that no matter what is happening to us (trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword, etc.), no matter what the devil or the world throws at us, God is with us and still loves us unconditionally. He does so because of what Jesus did for us by enduring that cup of suffering and giving His life to die in our place, restoring our relationship with God.

It takes more faith to be faithful and to rest in His love when we are not healed, when we do not receive the miracle, the deliverance. God has promised us His unfailing love, joy, peace, hope, eternal life, His presence (you are not alone!). He does heal! He does do miracles! But how do we respond when it doesn’t happen or “takes too long”? Will we keep loving and trusting Him no matter what? We may go through a season of doubt, our emotions may scream at us that we do not “feel” peace, nor joy nor hope. Depression may set in. But in the end, when the hard times come, let us cling to the truth of the Bible. We may not “feel” happy, it will definitely not be “fun”, but we can have a joy that passes all understanding.

We may have a hard time believing that God is truly loving because of traumatic experiences in the past. Countless prayers may have gone unanswered. We may have had negative experiences with religious people, grown up in a dysfunctional family situation, been physically or sexually abused, had a chronic illness for years, experienced the death of a loved one, or have felt alone and unloved, an outcast for so many years. We may have been involved in some really awful sin. We see the mess the world is in. These or other difficult experiences may have “soured” us to the idea of God’s love. It may be hard to believe but He was with us then and He is still here! He never leaves nor forsakes us. His power works best in weakness. Let us consider how Paul dealt with such disappointments in his life.


Paul is an amazing example of loving God no matter what and he shows us that there is nothing wrong with wholeheartedly asking God to remove the suffering, to pray about it over and over. What happened to Paul is another instance of where a great pillar of the faith asked for something, pleaded for something, but did not receive the answer he was hoping for.

“I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need.My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:7-10)

Jesus compared His coming trials to “a cup of suffering.” Here Paul calls his “a thorn in the flesh.” You may have had what felt like thorns in the flesh. Paul asked three times for his thorn to be removed, like Jesus asked three times for the cup to be taken away. In both cases it didn’t happen. Did Paul lack faith? Did God stop loving him? Did he have some hidden sin! No. How did God respond to Paul?

“My grace is sufficient for you. My power works best in weakness.” Not the response we are usually seeking when we are praying for deliverance! Then Paul says a remarkable thing: “I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” When we have a personal, intimate, alive, loving relationship with God, after the praying, crying and pleading, like Paul, this is where we need to end up. Having a faith that He is there, that He loves me, His grace is sufficient for me. I am not alone.

When Paul thought he was going to die, he placed his life fully in the hands of God. “We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.” (2 Cor. 1:9-11)

In Acts 16 Paul and his coworker Silas were severely beaten and placed in the deepest, smelliest, most wretched part of the prison. But Paul did not moan nor complain. “Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!” They sang, witnessing to the other prisoners. God rescued them and even the jailer came to faith because, filled with peace, they kept their eyes on Jesus!

The New Testament constantly speaks of Paul having this attitude as he served God. “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

Notice that these “whatever circumstance” verses are the context of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Another way of stating this verse is, “By Jesus power/help, I can put up with/endure through anything.” Cold, hot, full, hungry, in prison (as he was in Acts and when he wrote this letter and others), free, sick, well, living, dying, rich, poor, homeless, married, single. Whatever is going on in my life I will keep loving God and know without a doubt that He loves me and will help me through it.

Other “circumstances”

“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Cor. 11:24-28)

For Paul, even death is not the worse thing that could happen to him. “I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes it is better that I continue to live.” (Phil. 1:23-24)

Even if your suffering seems to be leading to your death keep loving and trusting God. A number of times I visited friends who died within a month. I went to try and encourage them and they could not stop trying to encourage me, to be a blessing to me. In each case I left much more blessed and inspired by them than I was able to bless or encourage them. Their loving relationship with God before the trial was strong and so their faith in God was strong no matter what.

No matter the sin, there is forgiveness!

In 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul declares: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” No matter what we have done, there is forgiveness. Paul had a lot to repent of, seeking to persecute and kill many of Jesus’ followers. He reflects in wonder: “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” If we have repented we no longer need to live in guilt. God has wiped the record clean, shows grace and loves us no matter what we have done.

The disciples

Eleven of the twelve disciples, tradition says, died as martyrs. The Book of Acts details how much a number of them suffered just as Jesus said they would. John is the only one who apparently died a natural death. Tradition says he was thrown into a pot of boiling oil but escaped to the island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation.

Acts 12:1-5 gives us pause to consider what happened to two of the disciples. “About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.) Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.”

James, the brother of John, whom we read about so much in the Gospels, a man Jesus invested so much of His life to teach and disciple (one of the big three of Peter, James and John), was suddenly killed by Herod. No miraculous deliverance, no instant resurrection. Dead. Then Herod arrested Peter and planned to kill him the next day. But in Peter’s case God sent an angel and saved him. We see prayer as a pivotal part of that as well as what we now know about God’s plan for his life. So why is it that God “let” Herod kill James but He intervened to save Peter? Did James lack faith? Did God love him less? Did he have some secret sin? No! We know Herod was evil, so in essence what happened to James was a consequence of Herod’s sin.

The Old Testament heroes of faith

Of the many Biblical examples of godly people suffering in this world consider Hebrews 11:35b-40, the chapter which tells us about the heroes of the faith. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.” This list alone should dispel any notion that suffering is necessarily caused by a lack of faith or the idea that God does not love us if trials are pounding us down.

There is a continual contrast in the Bible between heaven and the world. This world is governed and controlled in so many ways by the devil, who is called the god of this world. Through Jesus we can have victory over the devil. Yet this world is not heaven. Suffering is a part of life. Jesus, Paul and the disciples, the prophets were not exempt from it, and neither are we. Rev. 21:4 says of heaven: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” That infers that tears, death, sorrow, crying and pain are a part of this world. God gives us peace, inner joy, hope, His presence, His love. His grace is sufficient in such weaknesses, but being His child does not mean that we will not suffer in this world.

Where else can we go? May we be like Peter who said to Jesus when He asked if they wanted to leave Him like others: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

Joni Erickson eventually turned her suffering and confusion into a life-changing ministry to thousands upon thousands of people, both to those who have a disability and those who do not. As she says, “I would rather be in this chair knowing Him, than on my feet without Him.”


In Mark 4:37-40, Jesus rebukes the wind and the rain and calms the storm. Did Jesus send the storm so that He could then calm it? No. Storms are a part of this natural world. How we respond to the storm is the more important question. Will we let the storms blow our trust in God and His love away or will we cling more closely to Him, whether we live or die. Jesus, who calmed the storm, can calm our fears.

May we keep a close loving relationship with God at all times as we face storms, refusing to allow others or our own hearts to question His love for us. Let us not accuse ourselves or others of lacking faith, for to do so would be to question the faith of Jesus, Paul, the disciples, Stephen, who was stoned, the Old Testament heroes of the faith, and many others. When we suffer, may we remember that we are in good company and that God is with us. May we stand firm as they did knowing His power is shown great in our weaknesses, no matter what is happening. His grace is sufficient for us!