Suffering as a gift
I’m a dad of two little girls. One is really little (9 months), and hasn’t started to walk independently yet. Sometimes, we place her in a “car” and she sits in it and walks with it. I hate breaking down this car though. It seems that every time I do it, I pinch my finger. It’s more of an annoyance than a pain, but I have really hurt myself on it in the past.
It’s not the only object I have hurt myself with. And, every time I really hurt myself, I have a tendency to want to curse under my breath (it might sneak out now and then 🙂 ). Getting hurt stinks.
Sometimes, getting hurt is just a consequence of our own actions, or someone elses actions. I have been thinking about 1 Peter chapter 2 in this regard:
19For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.
20For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.
It’s not always easy to sort through what things are self-created and what are not. We suffer from our own decisions and sinfulness. It’s important to remember that if we confess our sins, “God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. We will still suffer the consequences of our own misbehavior, but we are able to look to Christ who died for our sins for forgiveness and healing.
Hebrews 12 describes a different type of suffering which comes from the hand of God:
“MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD,
NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;
6FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES,
AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”
7It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
8But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
C.S. Lewis puts it this way in “The Problem of Pain”:
“As Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled: the legitimate sons, who are to carry on the family tradition, are punished” (32)
So, pain from God is a gift? Is it a blessing? Are we to be thankful for the crosses we are given to bear?
The theologian of glory says “NO”. The theologian of glory believes that one needs to have greater faith to overcome suffering in this world and “move on” to glory. We are meant for “greater things”.
The theologian of the cross sees the same suffering and believes that God has counted him worthy to share in the sufferings of Christ to a lesser degree. The strange suffering and persecution are part of God’s plan.
“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”. Paul would call that horse poop (An overly-sentimental view of the Christian life does not take into account the suffering he was subject to). Paul was shipwrecked twice, stoned, beaten, poor, naked, cursed, threatened, jailed, and, ultimately martyred. He went through all of this after seeing the risen Christ.
Later, he wrote the letter to the Philippians from prison. It exudes JOY!! Why? Did he get three squares a day and a satellite hookup? It was that God counted him worthy to suffer for the sake of His name. The “wonderful plan” God had for his life also included a thorn in the flesh that God would not remove.
Job suffered, too, and this was permitted by God. Think of how long this book of the Bible is. God wants us to see that suffering is not a curse. In fact read on in 1 Peter 2:
21Foryou have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,
22WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH;
23and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;
24and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
May God refresh our vision of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and the wounds which have healed us. May we see that the sufferings we endure in this life are not suffered alone, but they are the badges of honor God gives to His true and blessed children.