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Oswald Chambers wrote, “Sorrow burns up a great amount of shallowness.” That is so true. Suffering tends to knock all the props out from under us, and we are left with only what is true and worthwhile.  It strips us of all the pretense, and all that is fake. When we have not yet experienced the tragedies that life can bring, we tend to be very superficial. But there is a maturity and depth that comes as a result of suffering. (I am referring to trials and tribulations, not sickness and death.)

When we are going through difficult times, we are reminded of our need for God. We tend to go through life quite self-reliant, until we reach that place where we can’t handle something on our own. And for many of us, that leads us to the feet of Jesus. It is in suffering that we are most aware that our dependence must be on God, and not ourselves.

Romans 8:17  says, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”

The word for “suffer” there in the Greek means to feel pain together, to suffer evils (troubles, persecutions) in the like manner with another. Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t say that we could never experience the pain that He has, or come anywhere near His suffering? While that is true, He doesn’t compare pain and suffering. He simply promises, that if we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified together.

In another verse (2 Timothy 2:12) it says, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him…”

The word for “suffer” there means that under misfortunes and trials, we hold fast to our faith. It means to endure, and bear bravely and calmly, ill treatment. The general idea is to persevere in the face of great suffering. That’s a lot easier said than done, isn’t it?

But again, we have a promise that we shall also reign with Him. It means to possess supreme honor, liberty, and blessedness, with one in the Kingdom of God.

God even rewards our suffering when we endure the persecution, hard times, and painful situations. (He doesn’t reward getting stuck in our misery.)  A lot of people do not come through a time of suffering trusting God even more, and praising Him for His faithfulness. Rather, they become bitter, angry, and resentful. They get caught in the pain, and in the role of being a victim, and they begin to like the attention that they receive because of it. But it’s in persevering with patience and endurance, until we have overcome (or at least gotten through) with grace and dignity, that pleases God. 

The more powerless we feel in the face of persecution, painful situations and hurtful people, the more we are driven to God, and it is in these struggles and challenges, that we come to know Him in a much deeper way. Sometimes we are actually going through some pruning, (some cutting back), so that we can produce even better fruit.

My favorite Bible character is Joseph. In Genesis 41: 52 we are told that he named his second son Ephraim. Ephraim came after Joseph had experienced many years of suffering, and Joseph said that he gave his son that name because, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

Think about that a moment. It is so easy to get angry, frustrated, and discouraged when we’re going through something difficult. We tend to think, I’ll be okay when I’m out of this. But Joseph was able to praise God, and be fruitful, while he was still in the land of suffering. When we have to press more into God, our roots go down deeper, and we produce good fruit.

Often difficult times are only a few bad scenes in a really great movie. We have to look at the whole picture, not just the isolated parts.

In spite of suffering, life is good. The alternative is not to live at all. And if we can see our pain as a transforming process, we can know that none of our suffering is for nothing. We are being strengthened, we are maturing, we are learning compassion for others, we are becoming more dependent on God, we are learning forgiveness, and we are moving forward. The moving forward is so important. To stand still is to lose ground eventually.

Without a doubt, the road is rough at times, but there is One who holds your hand…

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