There is a great danger in the Prosperity Gospel movement in that it fails to recognise that suffering, in one shape or form or another, is always going to present even, and perhaps more so, in the lives of the holiest of Christians. We cannot escape suffering. If you study the lives of the mystics of the Church you will discover that they all underwent quite significant levels of suffering – physical, emotional or psychological.
The prosperity Gospel says that a person with faith in God should experience only blessing and wealth in their lives. Any suffering or poverty is simply due to a lack of faith! This is far too simplistic to even approach being true. It forgets the fundamental truth of Christ’s passion and death for a start! And, practically speaking, there is no convincing argument to support the claim. On the contrary, all the evidence is in the other direction!
One of the most evident features of Prosperity Gospel Churches is the youthfulness of the congregation. Once a person starts getting old, and sickness becomes more prevalent, they begin to realise that the premises of Prosperity Gospel thinking are fundamentally flawed and they drop out and return to the real world. It is very clear from the Scriptures that while suffering was not in God’s plan from the beginning, he certainly has not wiped it out when he raised Jesus from death.
St Paul talks about suffering for the sake of the Gospel; the saints talk about suffering for the sake of the Gospel and I think John Paul II chose to continue on as pope even though he was greatly debilitated by his physical suffering, at least in part to convey a message to the world that suffering does not have to be totally useless or evil. God can bring good out of it, indeed suffering offered in intercession for a particular need is very powerful. John Paul II clearly demonstrated that suffering can be turned to good both in many of his writings and also in the example of his life.
Holy Spirit, help me to embrace any suffering that comes to me not because I desire it but because I know that in joining it to the sufferings of Christ in his passion and death it can become redemptive.