June 10, 2013

Creativity in Suffering

Our book club met yesterday to discuss Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ book, “Lies Women Believe.” Throughout our long conversation, we kept repeating that old definition of sin and immaturity: “I want what I want when I want it.” At one point we agreed that we mostly want comfort and happiness, but also that we learn best through suffering a lack of comfort and happiness.

Jesus was fully God, fully man. While on earth He lived as we should live, depending entirely on the Holy Spirit to do the will of God. He was well aware of the big lie: that we can have it all whenever we want it all, a lie preached by false teachers in what is called the prosperity Gospel. They say Christians do not have to suffer; we just need to have faith. However, the Bible says, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8) If Jesus suffered, what makes me think I should be exempt?

Not all suffering is discomfort and pain. Sometimes it is emotional or psychological. I know folks who must deal with unsaved spouses, cranky neighbors, and unreasonable employers. In other parts of the world, suffering could include lost freedoms, famine, war, and a continual threat of death.

Those things make my sufferings seem small, but to God, any suffering is an important tool to teach me obedience. For instance, I have ADD, a scattered mind. I wrestle to keep it out of places it should not go. Could this suffering be purposeful in teaching me to “pray without ceasing”? I think so.

This is an important part of theology. God uses all things together for good in the lives of His children (Romans 8:28). The “good” is in the next verse. It means being transformed into the image of His Son. Instead of simply bearing it bravely, I can grow from whatever life flings at me. The grace of God is sufficient to turn the darkest experiences into treasure.

In the hand of God, nothing is meaningless. One of my worst trials brought such change and goodness that I have been able to thank God for it, even for all the sorrow and tears. As today’s devotional says, the godly reaction to suffering and sorrow is seeing difficulties as God-given opportunities. He wants me to consider my troubles as a sacred trust and wear these thorns as a crown.

The devotional adds that this creative attitude toward suffering not only develops my character, but also makes me a source of blessing and strength to others. I cannot see that, just as a mirror cannot see what it reflects. I can only keep on, confessing sin when it occurs and trusting Jesus to meet the challenges. He faced the worst suffering anyone has ever faced, and came through it in great victory. He did that that I might know suffering can produce amazing results. For Him, it was salvation for sinners! For me, it is obedience and a character that is more like His. 

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