Does talking about one’s pain and suffering
give power to the adverse condition or
demonstrate a lack of faith in a believer? Is
doing so unchristlike?
Those are a couple of the questions addressed
in pastor and theologian Jeremiah Johnston’s
recent book Unanswered, a volume intended to shed light on topics that have largely gone
unaddressed within today’s Church.
Some believers might feel that expressions of
fear or concern about an infirmity or condition
somehow surrender their power against it,
while others believe that denying those
feelings of vulnerability is a sign of faith.
Johnston told The Christian Post that both
schools of thought are simply unbiblical,
asserting that plenty of annointed leaders in
the Bible were willing to be vunerable when it
came to sharing about their suffering.
Pastor Johnston, an Oxford-educated Bible
scholar, used Apostle Paul and his letters to the
Corinthian Church to illustrate this point. “Paul
is unafraid to share his affliction,” Johnston told
CP, quoting 2 Corinthians 1:8: ‘For we do not
want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia that we were
burdened by excessively beyond our strength,
so that we despaired even of life (NASB).'”
The pastor continued in Unanswered, ” …
Christians should never be afraid to be
transparent about the reality of their suffering
and pain. Where did we get this notion that
sharing honestly about our pain and suffering
is somehow un-Christian?” The theologian put it simply. “You do not lack faith if you share
Johnston was careful to note, however, that
while Apostle Paul didn’t mind sharing the
reality of his pain and suffering, he didn’t
constantly dwell on that pain.
“Though Paul is eager and transparent in
recalling his suffering, he does not live there,”
Johnston wrote, noting that as Paul began his
letter in 2 Corinthians 1, his focus is on God, not
“Paul had learned the lesson that every
overcomer eventually understands: learn from
the past but don’t live there. Paul had his share
of troubles and significant challenges, but he
had been comforted by God, and as a result, he
was able to comfort the troubled Corinthian church family,” he said. Apostle Paul drew his
strength from The Almighty and used it to
Johnston further emphasized that when
people experience suffering they should keep
their eyes on Christ.
“Our focus must remain on God when we
struggle, suffer, and exprience pain,” he wrote.
“For Paul and his companions, their trials
taught them to ‘not to trust in ourselves, but in
God who raises the dead,’ (2 Corinthians 1:9
Focusing on God through trials is a
foundational message that’s echoed
throughout the Christian community. Texas-
based Lakewood Church Senior Pastor Joel
Osteen imparted this lesson in a 2013 sermon
titled “Focus on the Promise, Not the Problem,” encouraging believers to keep their eyes
focused on God and the assurity of His
promises regardless of their current ordeals.
Osteen said, “What we focus on we magnify.
We’re not changing its actual size, we’re simply
making it bigger in our own minds.”
The Lakewood megachurch pastor said that
harping on negative news and bad
circumstances only makes the issues bigger
than they really are.
“It’s changing your perception of it,” Osteen
said. “You can take a small coin. If you hold it
up close enough to your eye, eventually it will
block the sun. That coin — even though it’s
billions and trillions of times smaller [than the
sun] — because you’ve got it so close, it’s distorting your perspective. … Quit magnifying
The pastor went on to use the example of a
negative medical report, saying that believers
could spend time dwelling on it and adding to
their worries. “All that time, it’s becoming
bigger and bigger in your mind.”
Sharing feelings about infirmities and personal
suffering might not increase or decrease the
power of those negative events, but dwelling
on them can certainly increase their influence
over the mind of the believer.