The Temptation of Quick Fixes for Suffering

Life is showing me I have a much stronger desire for quick fixes to my suffering than I typically care to admit. For example, as a mother, I struggle a great deal with joy in parenthood on a daily basis for a mix of reasons – my pride and selfishness, the basic challenges of living with people who are different and at times highly demanding, and some issues that are my own unique weaknesses. The struggles bring various degrees of suffering and discomfort to my daily life as a mom. I want quick fixes and often use the name of Jesus to try and justify my plea for them. “Lord, You want peace in our home, don’t You? So would You just help my heart to be unrattled and help us all be kind to each other?”

On the surface, this isn't necessarily a bad prayer to pray, but just underneath is a thinly-veiled motive. I push against the exposure of my pride and selfishness, my lazy yearning for easy days, and my unwillingness to put my hand to the plow to dig deep and tend faithfully to my children the way God has called me to. My desire for a peaceful home may have some root of godliness, but my insistence upon some kind of quick fix from God, less so.
This desire for quick fixes comes up in much more serious ways as well. My family recently lost a family friend in a rather sudden and unexpected way. This has opened up some old questions I’ve held in my heart for some time. I find myself asking the Lord why He allows us to go through such long days, months, and years of deep heartache in so many forms, one generation after another. One thousand years may be like a day to Him, but one day of deep and real suffering can feel like a thousand years to us. Some of my ache is my God-given groaning for Heaven, but my insistence upon a quick(er) fix is ultimately rooted in a lack of faith that He knows what He is doing, even in the midst of our most painful moments.

The questions behind suffering are deep, broad, complicated - and often so valid. They are far beyond the scope of one blog post. But would you let me share three encouragements when you may find yourself, like me, fighting the temptation to insist upon a quick fix for our suffering?

First Peter 1:3-9 says this:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1. When the suffering comes from sin that feels slow to change, lean into living hope and rejoice that faith in the Gospel is what saves our sin-stained souls.

Sometimes in my struggles with motherhood, my temptation to insist upon a quick fix is tied into discouragement about the sin patterns I see in myself and my children. I see, over and over again, how these patterns lead to conflict and unhappy hearts. On the surface I would love right now for my children to stop fighting selfishly, ridiculously, and oh so loudly over little things every day. I would love right now for my own heart to be so steadfast that I would never get rattled or be driven by my own selfishness. When I cry out, “Lord help us!” I would love for us all to just be perfect - or at least much better - now, please. But in this case, my motivation is more about wanting to feel at ease than it is about wanting to be dependent upon the Lord.

When I let go of my desire for quick fixes and lean into the living hope of Christ, I find in Him love that is imperishable, never worn out by my sin. I find in Him love that is undefiled, never losing patience with me. I find in Him love that is unfading, never dulled by my mess. I find that He is enduring and longsuffering in His love towards me and my family, indeed towards nations and generations, despite our repeated shortcomings. What inexpressible joy is ours when we come to know and trust this love! When I lean into living hope, I can take my children by their hands no matter how hard of a day we have had, and together we can find the richness of God’s mercy and forgiveness. We learn to love each other with the longsuffering love of Christ. God’s mercy to us in bearing with our sin and refining us over time is not so that we would despair over not having a quick fix, but so that we might lean for a lifetime into the glorious living hope of the Gospel that is our salvation and power to truly change.

2. Take comfort in knowing that the prolonged suffering of generations throughout the world is not a surprise to the Lord.

There is no easy explanation for the suffering He allows in various contexts, throughout nations, over generations. To say that He has been sovereign from the beginning can feel both comforting and at times frustrating to wrestle with, particularly if you are the one who is neck-deep in heartache. Suffering never can or should be minimized. I remember being at work on 9/11 when I saw the awful news of the Twin Towers collapsing. Like everyone in our country, I was stunned, bewildered, and deeply grieved. But the Lord then brought to mind Matthew 24:3-14, where Jesus foretold wars, famines, earthquakes, betrayal, hatred, tribulation, people going astray, an increase of lawlessness, the love of many growing cold. “But the one who endures to the end will be saved (vs 13).” He has never been surprised by the extent of suffering here on earth.
While this does not minimize the pain borne by those who have been directly affected by 9/11 and other atrocities, there is a comfort to be found in knowing God is not stunned or bewildered by world events. He has been sovereign over all the events of history. But more than that, He Himself has walked into them - into political, relational, personal and spiritual suffering - to save us from despair.

3. Remember Jesus, who chose in faith the long road of suffering over the quick fix.

When I consider the specific temptation towards wanting God to provide a quick fix for the suffering inside and outside of me, I think upon Jesus in the desert and Satan’s temptation to give Him all the kingdoms of this world now (there’s that quick fix!). The caveat, however, was that Jesus would have to turn His heart away from the Father and worship Satan instead. Jesus was not exempt from the temptation of the quick fix. But even as He was mocked, beaten, crucified, seemingly defeated, and then forsaken by His Father, Jesus still trusted that His Father would remain faithful in all His ways. He trusted His Father to be good, and knew Satan’s promises were empty lies. Indeed, the Resurrection put on full display the glory and sovereignty of God as the world saw why faith in the Father on the long road of suffering was not only necessary but justified.

The Apostle Peter tells us that faith is more precious than even gold. Isn’t gold one of our top contenders as a quick fix? “If I could just win the lottery, my life would be carefree until the day I die!” Oh how easily we are deceived by the enticement of the quick fix. God knows this temptation in us so well, and so He tells us in His Word that a deep, solid, enduring faith tested and refined by fire, is worth more than gold. Be encouraged as you persevere in faith, and endure in your wrestling against the temptation of the quick fix. In suffering, we long to be saved, and in Christ we see the salvation of our souls is the outcome not of the quick fix, but of faith in our Faithful Father.