Thoughts on Suffering

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing for your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  –James 1:2-4

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”           -James 1:12

Be patient, therefor, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.  You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. … As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.  You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”  -James 5-8, 10-11

This year has been a spiritually, relationally, financially, situationally, and incredibly challenging year for me.  It’s been a back and forth battle between hope & despair, courage & fear, joy & pain.  There are of course many times when I’m certain that the Lord knows the plans he has for us and that all things are in his control and we are in his hands.  But then there are many times, and maybe increasingly of late, when I question those plans, and question whether or not he is even listening or paying attention to all that we’re hoping, praying, seeking.  It’s all too easy to forget that, as a disciple of all creation’s King, pain is part of it.

The Bible says a lot about being faithful (sticking to a promise), true (straight), not looking to the right or to the left, not being double-minded, not looking in a mirror and walking away forgetting what you just saw.  In a word, steadfastness.  All of these things are related.  We are to hold the course, press on toward the goal, persevere, remain steadfast and endure, all for the joy set before us.  In the parable of the sower, Jesus talks about the seeds sown on rocking ground as one who hears the word and believes with joy, but does not persevere when difficulty comes.  He later warns his disciples to stand firm and not fall away when persecution comes.  It is always a danger and the Lord is constantly warning us of it.  If the disciples needed to be frequently encouraged and warned of difficulties to come, so should we.

It is incredibly easy to get discouraged by our circumstances and feel like we’re doing something wrong if life is difficult.  We forget that difficulty is part of following Jesus.  How amazing it is to not only be told to endure it, but actually to receive it with joy!  I love that the Lord gives us these reminders to seek perseverance as a product of trials.  This is the lesser, but necessary goal, even to the greater goal of eternity.  Only in a kingdom upside down from the world, can we learn to reset our minds to our circumstances, and rejoice in suffering.  Sometimes we just need a little reminder.  Our King is good.  Pain is a promise, perseverance the prize that leads to life eternal.  Praise the Lord!

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”           –1 Peter 1:6-9 

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