God is reminding me lately of the commonality, and dare I say necessity of suffering. That’s right, I said necessity. Of course none of us are going to shout out, “Bring on a hardship today God!” We would like to sail through life with no pain, no sorrow, no suffering, but once Eve took the bite of forbidden fruit; it pretty much trashed that plan. Suffering is common to the human condition and I have yet to think of anyone who has not endured some of it.
Suffering is also a necessary part of Christian growth. God allows suffering in our lives, to bring about maturity in Christ. If there were never a hardship in our life, then where would the necessity of trust be? If we could take care of all our needs on our own, why would we need to trust God? It is through suffering or hardship that we have the opportunity to embrace God, trust him through it, and become the person he needs for the work he has set out for us.
Hebrews 5:8-9 (NIV) states: Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. Do you know the “he” that verse is speaking of? It’s Christ himself! Now, if we are called to be Christ-like should we not expect that we too would endure times of suffering?
Look at the saints in scripture. Moses fled to the desert and spent years there before he was ready to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only son on an altar. David fled from an angry king, hiding in caves. Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace while Daniel was tossed into a pit of lions. Paul suffered beatings and imprisonment. We can find example after example of suffering or hardship in the lives of God’s people.
James 1:2-4 tells us to consider it joy when we face trials of many kinds and goes on to tell us the reason, because it produces maturity. I know that I want to be used of God and in order for that to happen, I have to mature in him. In that process there has been and will continue to be periods of suffering. The question is, am I going to cling to the cross through it, or am I going to fight it? My choice is to hold tight to the cross and allow God to bring me through the trial toward greater maturity in him.