Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Purposeful Suffering

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My last post focused on graceful suffering - the art of enduring hardship in a God-honoring way. This post will focus on the direction and destination of suffering - purposeful suffering.

It's important to consider the purpose of suffering because if I'm not careful, my pain and grief can take me in a direction I mean not to go; worse yet, I may end up in a place I do not desire to reside, unable to return.

One of the biggest reasons why I've come to realize I've been allowed to suffer (yes, allowed) is because it gives me an opportunity to come to know the Comforter. There is no other way to know His strength than to run into the end of mine.

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As Americans we want instant gratification, immediate relief, quick responses - essentially, what we want when we want it. We're entitled. This doesn't work with God, because the reality is that life doesn't revolve around us - it revolves around Him. If God were to remove every hardship at our request, He would become nothing more than a genie in a bottle.

However, because He allows us to endure challenges and trials, we experience the essence of who God is. He is loving, patient, compassionate, kind, sensitive to our hurt, and protective over us as His children. Finding comfort in God in the midst of suffering turns despair into hope. Pain into solace. Anger into peace. It makes us into the kind of people God wants us to be - more like His Son.

Furthermore, if my eternal destination is to be in Heaven with Him, shouldn't I want to be there? Shouldn't that "reward" be something desirable to me? In fact, if this promise of Heaven is what God says it is, shouldn't it be the greatest thing I could ever imagine (great enough to make the suffering worth it)? Shouldn't He be the fulfillment of my every hope and desire?

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So this life of brokenness brings suffering, but not without meaning and purpose. God has offered Himself up willingly on the cross to share in my suffering, but also to conquer it so that I could then share in His ultimate overcoming of it. But notice that this requires faith - that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He said He will do. My pain will probably not ever go away the way I wish it would in this life, but God promised one day (that day) it will all be gone forever. And as I endure it, I find comfort and refuge in Him because only He is strong enough, faithful enough, wise enough, and loving enough to bear the full weight of that which I need.

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