“Do they suffer well?” That is probably not one of the first questions people ask when they consider whether or not somebody might make a good future spouse. But in a recent blog Kevin Thompson suggests it is a question people should ask. He writes about “The Most Overlooked Characteristic of Who You Want to Marry.” Suffering is an unavoidable part of life in this fallen world. You can tell a lot about a person by how they deal with suffering. “Not everyone suffers well. Some live in denial. … Some live in despair. … Find someone who suffers well.”
That doesn’t sound very romantic. It’s not the kind of thing the world looks for. The world is asking questions like: Are they fun? What do they look like? Are they successful?
It’s not so hard to find someone who will laugh with you and want to be with you when you’re doing well and times are good. It’s a little more complicated to find someone who will cry with you when times are tough, who will stick by you and support you when you’re not so much fun to be around, who will believe in your future when you don’t believe in it yourself, who will lift you up and carry you along when you’re too weary to make it on your own.
Finding someone who suffers well is something to look for not just in who you want to marry but also in who you want as a friend you can count on. We all face trials and suffering in this life. God doesn’t want any of us to struggle through those tough times alone. We need friends who will patiently listen, share an encouraging word, remind us of the love of Jesus, let us know they care and let us know that by God’s grace better days are going to come.
God’s vision for a local congregation is that it would be a group of people that suffer well together. “But God has combined the members of the body … so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (I Corinthians 12:24-26). When one part of our physical body is hurting, the rest of the body gets involved. It’s the same in the body of Christ. When our brother or sister in Christ is hurting, we hurt with them. We have seen that happen in our congregation. In the midst of trials it has been great to see and experience people suffering well together.
We find in Jesus the best friend who suffers well. He is “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). He keeps on loving us even when we’re not so loveable. He is willing to be with us and go through the hard times right beside us. He suffers with us and for us. And through His suffering on the cross for our sin, He gives us hope that one day the suffering will end. “What a Friend we have in Jesus.”