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Renoir, the famous French painter, continued to paint, in spite of terrible, excruciating arthritis. A close friend of his inquired, “…Why do you keep on painting when you are in so much pain? Renoir pondered the questioned and then answered, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”

So many of the struggles we go through in life end in beauty. In fact God has said that he would give us “beauty for ashes.”

(Again, I am not referring to sickness or death, when I discuss suffering, because I believe sickness comes from Satan, not God. I am referring to trials, tribulations, struggles, and the painful challenges of life that often leave us wounded.)

It is very common to want to escape suffering. I can’t think of anyone who truly embraces it. Usually, we want to get as far away from it as possible. But unfortunately, life is not like that. To live is to suffer…it cannot be denied.

As I was doing some research tonight, I read that the Chinese have two characters for the word “crisis.” One means danger, and the other means opportunity. In every crisis, there is probably an opportunity. We need to ask ourselves, “What can I learn from this?”, “Is God preparing me for something else?, and “How can this time of difficulty be transformed into something meaningful?”

Could there possibly be a purpose to our suffering? Romans 5: 3-5  says, “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”

In recent months when I have suffered persecution, of course I grieved over the situation. But I did not allow myself to be destroyed by it, unlike other times in my life. (Which doesn’t mean I didn’t cry or have sleepless nights.  I did, as I was truly hurt.) But this time, I tried to find something positive in it.

The first thing I noticed that gave me so much comfort, was how many friends came to my defense. So often, in our time of trouble, others let us down or abandon us at the time when we need their support most. I was (and am) thankful for the loyalty of my friends, and for their assurances that God had used me to make a difference in their lives. Therefore, I knew that all my previous effort was not in vain.

Secondly, I began to wonder if God allowed this persecution to happen, in order to move me in another direction. (I am a firm believer that there are seasons in our lives devoted to certain areas of ministry, and sometimes it is difficult for me to know when that season is over.) I often have to be dynamited out of places, because I have grown comfortable and settled. It’s funny because when I told my counselor what happened, she was amazed at the cruelty shown toward me and the lady I defended, and also at the failure of the owner of the board to protect and defend me. But the thing that really got me was when she said, “There may have been some Divine intervention in it also.” I smiled, agreeing, because I had also had that same thought. I was very invested in the people there, and wouldn’t have left on my own. In addition, it allowed me to see who I was dealing with, and the character (or lack of) that the owner demonstrated. For one week and a little more, I experienced a lot of hurt, and even chest pains as they attacked me in writing, for days on end. But after that, I received a peace about it all, and that grief and pain was lifted off of me.

When Joseph was mistreated so badly by his own brothers, he was able to say later, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”

The word “evil” in the Hebrew means to give pain, unhappiness and misery. Joseph said the things they did were intended to harm and to hurt him.

But then he added, “God meant it for good.” It means welfare, prosperity, happiness, and benefit.

That should encourage us, to understand that even though some situations in this world are designed to bring us evil and harm, God can take those things, and bring good out of them. They can have redemptive value in our lives. So, if you are going through a difficult time right now, (whatever the source), trust God, and know that He will turn it around, and bring something good from the suffering. And when you begin to doubt, just keep trusting. Job was able to say with confidence, after all he suffered, “I know my Redeemer Lives…”

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