On Suffering

12 Dec

On Suffering…

Grandfather says we often think of suffering as something that happens to us apart from God’s rescue plan. Nothing could be furthur from the truth and James 1:1-4 helps us see that it is part of God’s redemption. The pressure that we experience from various trials actually produces in us growth into Christ-likeness. Through a joyful trust in God we are able to overcome our trials.

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1: 1-4

In 1967 Joni Eareckson Tada dove into the Chesapeake Bay. Having misjudged the depth of the water Tada emerged forever changed. She would from this point forward be a quadriplegic, living her entire life in a wheelchair. Tada has written extensively of her experiences. She has been an inspiration to everyone. She is a living picture of our text in James 1:1-4. She models joy in the midst of suffering. Furthermore, she shows that God often has a good purpose in our suffering. On one occasion Joni even discussed having her wheelchair in heaven.

Where does that type of joy come from? Ultimately, we know the answer to that question is that such joy can only come from God. James helps our answer to that question become more specific.

Notice that James 1:2 does not say, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, if you experience various trials”. No, it says, “…when you experience various trials”.

Suffering is part and parcel of the Christian life.

This truth prepares us for all types of suffering.

God is sovereign over all the “various trials”

By telling us that we will suffer the Lord is giving us grace. It keeps us from going into shock and asking foolish questions when suffering comes upon us. When we know that suffering is part of God’s plan we will be better prepared to trust His sovereign goodness. We are reminded that God knows that we are going to suffer, but He also knows that our suffering has a purpose.

Verses 3-4 give us the reason why we should be joyful in the midst of trials.

The furnace of suffering reveals our approval before God

In verse 2 James refers to our suffering as a trial.

In verse 3 he calls it “testing”. The word is one that refers to the act of proving the worth of something.

The furnace of suffering produces endurance

The furnace of suffering results in our greatest joy; namely conformity to Christ.

The fact that “endurance must do its complete work” helps us see that God will finish His work. Believers will endure these trials, for our good and His glory.

Our response to suffering matters Our joy and our cooperation is important as we respond to our suffering

We will all face seasons of suffering, believers and unbelievers. Yet, none of us will experience the full weight of suffering as Jesus experienced it. He experienced suffering so that He could ultimately redeem our suffering. Through Christ suffering can actually become a means to joy.

What is your response to suffering? It reveals something about our hearts. Do we trust in the goodness of God? Is our faith one that is strong enough to endure the furnace of suffering? If you are suffering know in this season that God is inviting you to trust His goodness. If you are not in a season of suffering this is the time to develop a robust theology of suffering. Then don’t be surprised when God calls you to use it.

Walk daily with God at your side!

Love always,

Ed

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