Sick of struggle & suffering? You cannot wish it away or ignore it into oblivion. When pain comes it can do a number on us in a short time. When it remains, it can actually influence us so much that we change into a person different from who we were before the pain arrived. When we respond properly to suffering we become stronger and wiser, bringing glory to our sovereign God. When we respond improperly we become hard, bitter and resentful…and quite unhappy. My last two posts on this topic (Pursuing Joy –Part 2 & Pursuing Joy – Part 3) focused on how God empowers our pain and suffering to become the seed of fruitful joy in our lives. Today I want to wrap this idea up and hopefully encourage you to think on how your own struggles are being used by God to work something lasting into your life. Recall the original text from which we embarked on this topic:
“Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance… more than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:2-3, 11)
When we are broken before the Lord we are surrendered. When we are surrendered we are deeply content. This contentment begins with shallow roots that quickly intertwine and grow deeper, producing spiritual strength and ability which secures us when further struggles, pain or suffering find us. What happens in this process is that we actually learn the joy of not having to understand everything in order to endure everything. We rely less on control, data, forecasts and guarantees about our temporary circumstances and are made to take deep satisfaction in promises from God. When suffering takes away all of the things we typically and naturally rely upon (our strength, our ability, our resources, our ingenuity, other people, money, structure, health, etc.) we are left with the understanding that God Himself is the only valid constant to whom we must turn. Our theology tells us that “God is enough” but suffering proclaims even more loudly, “God is not only enough…He is All.”
The theme of heaven is God’s glory. If this theme is what God has decreed will be the lasting emphasis in eternity, should we believe that His glory is not the main point of life here and now? It would be a mistake to assume that this life is primarily about us – our name, our ease, our plan, our happiness – and then to assume the great transition to God’s glory will occur only when we enter into Heaven. No, friends, the humbling truth for a proud generation of Christians is that the life that now is and the apex of life in Heaven will be, and always has been, about the fame of God. If we can truly believe this then we are empowered to view even our most distressing seasons of life as being consistent with God’s theme of the ages. We also are convinced that there is unspeakable reward in embracing what He has sovereignly assigned us as we see it as a small part of His unfathomable plan. This infuses our struggles with eternal value as we anticipate the fulfillment of Jesus’ teaching when He said in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The mourning and loss and pain will come to an undeniable stoppage but the comfort and joy will endure forever. Paul understood this and gave us this pillar of hope to which I have fled many times, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18). God’s word reminds us regularly that we may endure in the power of the confident hope that God is infusing our present trouble with present purpose and that it will result in a future, everlasting release.
One day, pain will be never again. Never. That day is coming for those who have partaken of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. If God did not fulfill this promise then He is no god at all. But He is fulfilling it and He will keep doing so until there is neither a shred nor trace of pain. My personal opinion is that suffering will one day be so distant an experience and foreign to us that we ourselves will remember it at all. Herein we presently rejoice because this victory is already ours.
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