I embrace suffering. It’s no fun while it is happening, of course. And only a fool would go looking for it. But as I look back, almost all the spiritual progress in my life took place after God refined by fire something I could or would never have dealt with on my own.
Consider the clarity of these teachings about suffering....
- Daniel’s teaching is unambiguous: God refines, purifies, and sanctifies men—even men of great understanding (Daniel 11:35).
- Paul’s teaching is so clear: He delighted in tough times so that Christ’s power would rest upon him (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
- James’ teaching is equally clear: Trials and testing are causes for joy because they produce in us something we can get no other way, namely, spiritual maturity (James 1:2-4).
- Hebrews’ teaching is also unambiguous: Jesus knows exactly what you are experiencing, and invites you/us to approach him with confidence for mercy and grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).
- Peter’s teaching leaves no doubt: After suffering for a “little” while (“life is an inch”), the God of grace will “himself” restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10).
I embrace suffering because it produces in me the life of Christ, and I know of no other way to get it. I haven’t been able to get it by self-will. I didn’t get it through prosperity. It hasn’t come to me through learning.
You see, suffering compels us to seek the God that success makes us think we don’t need.
I embrace suffering because the “groan” only lasts for a brief while. In fact, life itself only lasts for a brief while. One day long ago my pastor said, “Life is an inch.” That changed my life.
A folktale puts our “inch” in perspective. In the land of Svithjod there is a large rock. Let’s say the size of this rock is 100 yards square—a cube the length of a football field. Imagine that once every 1,000 years a little bird comes by and sharpens its beak on that rock. However long it will take that little bird to turn that rock into dust—that is the first blink of eternity’s eye.
Even a lifetime of suffering is a small thing compared to the matchless joy that will be ours as we watch that little bird drop by every 1,000 years to sharpen its beak. “Better is one day in your courts than 1,000 elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10).
After one nine months long run of suffering, I could honestly look back and say, “I love suffering. It was worth it. It was grueling. It wasn’t fun. I groaned. But it was worth it. Lord, I love what you’re doing in my life. Thank you for the grace. Thank you for the refining fire. Thank you.”
Because of suffering, I know the gospel is true. Isn’t that a small price to pay?
Until every church disciples every man…