Joyfully suffering. It’s an oxymoron to be sure and I’ve never been very good at it. In fact, I’m horrible at the suffering part. I’ll take a plate piled with joy, but hold the suffering, please!
While researching this topic, I came across quotes by various saints who lauded suffering as the cornerstone in loving Christ. In fact, many felt like it was the only thing that brought them true joy.
For true suffering for one’s faith and joy in Christ, we need to look no further than Paul in the Bible. In Corinthians, he declares: “In all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” Yet only when you read the litany of his trials below, can you truly understand how shocking and awe-inspiring that initial statement is.
“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?”
I have never known suffering like the kind Paul talks about above. And to be honest, mine are minor in comparison, but I have known suffering, and during it all, I have to admit, I struggle to find the joy in it.
So, Why Do We Suffer?
I ask this question today because this was one of those weeks when I looked to the heavens and said, “What’s the deal?” We’ve all experienced one of those weeks, right? Where at every turn there was some sort of trial or obstacle.
In the past, when this has happened, incredible blessings have always followed. As if God allowed for the acute suffering, so I could acknowledge the subsequent and amazing joy. I have to say that I’m really looking forward to the joy after this week! So why do we suffer? I believe suffering hones a few essential skills for this world.
– It elevates us. Suffering forces us to become better than we are today.
– It forces us to make decisions we’ve been putting off. There is nothing like suffering to put our priorities into place.
– It creates confidence and faith. I can honestly say that every time I’ve hit a stumbling block, my confidence and faith in Christ has only become stronger.
We know this is the case because God promises us these blessings from adversity in the Bible. In Romans, He says:
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
So, if you’re having a hard time in life, or experiencing adversity, know that God is doing good in your life and if you can’t see it now, you will see it soon.
NOT ONLY SO, BUT WE ALSO GLORY IN OUR SUFFERINGS, BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT SUFFERING PRODUCES PERSEVERANCE; CHARACTER; AND HOPE.