My previous post began to unpack what Paul was describing when he peculiarly proclaimed that “we rejoice in sufferings”. Recognizing that I needed to take some care in how I deal with this subject, I left off that post from Tuesday, and am resuming it after much thought today. All of you reading have undergone, are currently undergoing or will undergo some form of suffering in your life. The last thing which is needed is for some blogger to throw out empty platitudes and churchy clichés concerning the heartbreak and suffering of others. Today I write as a fellow occasional sufferer, but one who has also triumphed in the past, and hopes to always overcome in the future through the power of Holy Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus.
Listen to the words of the Apostle James as he wrote nearly 2,000 years ago about why we are allowed to face difficulty as followers of Christ:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
Peter wrote to a different audience, “…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.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
For added emphasis let’s also include Peters later words from that same letter he wrote: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
So, here are five very important takeaways from these helpful bible passages on suffering:
Do not be surprised that suffering enters your life on occasion.
Suffering will be seasonal, come in various forms and will be defined by some level of pain & grief.
Suffering serves to test the genuineness of our faith and commitment to Jesus Christ by producing endurance in us.
Suffering, when steadfastly endured in loyalty and hope to Christ, actually strengthens you, pleases you as you overcome, and ultimately brings glory to Him, in that you esteem His grace & glory more essential than your temporary comfort & ease.
You cannot come to full maturity and spiritual completion in the absence of suffering because it is necessary to bring you into the fullness of Jesus Christ.
So then, we are brought to another crossroads of our faith. Since suffering is unavoidable for all people (whether they are believers in Christ or not), are we willing to accept this as part of God’s process in completing His plan for us? If I may testify in vulnerability, this is quite simple for me to accept as a biblical truth, but usually challenging for me to live out in life’s circumstances when they demand that I do so. Blogging about suffering is rather easy, but living a day, week, month or decade in the context of undesirable pain, confusion, denial or disillusionment is a sobering and raw experience. Since we cannot avoid it we must then decide that we can own the suffering and make it to become a dividend in some profitable investment (I often refer to this as “harnessing your pain”). What is the end of that investment of our unavoidable pain? Paul said that it was our rejoicing. The right approach to suffering can be fertile ground for our rejoicing if we are able to respond to it in the manner which God empowers.
My next post will help us consider (finally) how genuine joy is a byproduct of suffering while in the will of God.
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