You are going to experience suffering today. Your suffering won't necessarily be "life-altering." But, trials and suffering are a fact of life (James 1:2). Maybe your computer will have glitches that slow you down, the package that was supposed to come in the mail doesn't show up, your shoelace breaks, or ???I want to share some encouragement from Scripture to help you grow in your suffering and love God through it.
A few weeks ago I read Ligon Duncan's book, Does Grace Grow Best in Winter? Chapter 2 is titled, "What is God Up To?" Duncan suggests 4 things that God intends to accomplish in your suffering.
First, in your suffering God intends to teach you godliness. Romans 5:3-5 says "we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Christian, in your suffering, the Holy Spirit is at work in you to give you endurance, character, and hope! That's why God plans for things to go "wrong" in your life. So, it's your appreciation for endurance, character, and hope that causes you to rejoice in your suffering (see also James 1:2-4).
In your suffering, ask:"In what ways do I need to grow?" and "What is God trying to teach me?"In your suffering, give thanks to God for giving you what you desperately need: godliness!In your suffering, pray that you would learn what God wants to teach you.
Second, in your suffering God intends to give you surpassing joy in Christ. The Apostle Paul's letter to the Philippians teaches us this truth. Paul writes from prison and talks about others who wish to cause him, yet he rejoices (some have even called "joy" the theme of the letter). He rejoices because he prizes Christ more than this world. He says, "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ." Suffering helps us properly estimate the value of things in this life. They are temporary. They are passing away. The happiness they offer is also temporary. In this way, suffering reminds us of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ.
In your suffering, consider how you have inappropriately looked for joy and satisfaction in things that are passing away.In your suffering, rejoice in recognition of the truth that you have Christ! Rejoice that He will never leave you! Rejoice that He is fully satisfying.
Third, in your suffering God intends to build up the church. When you become a Chrsitian, you become a part of His body, the body of Christ. From God's perspective, "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together" (1 Corinthians 12:26). God does not intend for you to suffer by yourself, nor does He intend for you to suffer for yourself. Through your suffering God intends to teach other members of body to see the surpassing value of joy in Christ. He wants to teach others godliness. So, accept your suffering and be thankful for it for the benefit it will bring to your church family.
In your suffering, remember to ask other members of the body to pray for you. Don't try to "go it alone."In your suffering, consider how you can comfort others with the comfort you have received from God (see 2 Corinthians 1:4).
Fourth, in your suffering God intends to prepare you for glory. "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17). Duncan says, "You couldn't bear the glory that God has in store for you, unless you had been held up by God in your affliction in this life." John Piper says about this passage, "There is a real causal connection between how we endure hardship now and how much we will be able to enjoy the glory of God in the ages to come."
I'm still chewing on that one. I invite you to reflect on it with me.
The first person who reads this blog post and talks to me on Sunday morning about it, will receive a free copy of Lig Duncan's book, Does Grace Grow Best in Winter?