Do you ever feel like you are being held over a fire? Or that you are going to be consumed by the flames of circumstance in your life? Suffering is just a part of life and can be a internal or external pain that we just cannot wriggle away from. In the weeks up to Easter, I was thinking about suffering, both ours in this life and Jesus’ suffering during holy week. His fear and anxiety over the suffering He knew He would have to experience actually made Him sweat drops of blood. That’s pretty intense fear and anxiety!
So often, we tend to view suffering as a negative word, but recently I have come across three blessings of suffering. The human side of us wants to escape the pain of suffering but in truth it pushes us closer to Christ.
My life as a daughter, wife and mom has been filled with suffering. Looking back, it seems that I have fought through so much wrong and so many hard circumstances it almost doesn’t seem fair. I can also look back and see how my life’s experiences shaped and prepared me for my role as Big Bro’s mommy. Part of me wants to shake my fist at God and say how unfair it all is- that my suffering just prepared me for more suffering. But the other part of me is thankful for the preparation God provided and that he loved me enough to equip me with the necessary skills to be Big Bro’s mama.
When things get tough He reminds me that my life’s not all about me and that it actually fits into the bigger picture of eternity. Not only that but there are actually three blessings for us within the suffering for the here and now.
1. “Suffering limits sin.”
1 Peter 4:1 says “Whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.” I can’t say it better than James MacDonald:
“The primary purpose of suffering is not more Christians it’s better ones. We are more about survival rather than satisfaction when we are going through times of suffering.”
~James MacDonald’s message Reality Check On Suffering part 1.
2. We become an instrument of God and he uses us in mighty ways.
God sometimes uses our suffering to create or do something through us. When we are suffering, everything else tends to be stripped of importance and fades away. Sometimes, as in John Bunyan’s story, God put him in prison away from his life and during those years in prison he penned his books, specifically The Pilgrims Progress. And just look at the impact his books have had on countless millions of people.
3. We draw closer to Christ and become keenly aware of his presence.
Jesus modeled this for us in the garden of Gethsemane. He took his fear of the suffering to come straight to His Father. Interestingly he didn’t include his friends and family here on earth, but he appealed to His Father first. And it was in the strength from drawing close to God that he was able to endure the cross and the horrors of his death.
A friend of mine was led down a extremely difficult path and one thing that she said stuck with me. She said towards the end that in those times she sat alone with God, pouring out her heart and seeking healing were the times she has felt His presence with her in a way she never had before and that she would go through it all again just to experience God in that way.
I don’t know about you, but I find great comfort in that perspective. Knowing Jesus himself has personally felt those feelings and emotions that go along with through life’s hard times makes it easy to pour out my heart to him and cast my cares and burdens on His shoulders. We are not dealing with a distant God, but one who has empathy for us where we are in our suffering. And knowing that there is growth and a closer walk with Him as a result of what we are going through makes makes the hard times much easier to bear!
What perspective or verse comforts you in the valley’s of life?