- What if the challenges, struggles, and suffering that you are personally facing today is exactly what God has purposed in your life to….. grow you?
- What if the challenges of marriage were not intended to cause you to pursue
a divorce? Rather, what if those struggles are intended, by God, to grow your marriage? What if 20 years from now those same struggles are areas of growth that you and your spouse now reflect on with a peculiar fondness? Or, what if 20 years from now nothing has changed and yet God has been glorified in your faithfulness to Him?
- What if the current struggle you are facing in your local church is a means of growth for you, the body, and the leadership?
- What if the above difficulties are from God? What if they are not random? What if God really is sovereign?
What we believe about God informs what we believe about these struggles. What we believe about God guides us as to how we or, if we, cut bait, run, or plod our way through the troubles. I, just like you, have had my share of difficulties! I wish I could say that I kept my eyes on Christ and daily sought to honor Him. No, I had my doubts, fears, and questions about who God is. God was faithful, in spite of me!
For the believer, suffering will tempt you in two primary ways. What do we believe about God and His Word?
1.) What do you believe about God?
This is where it gets tricky. We can pass the pop quiz theology test. We know the right answers – God is sovereign, God is good, kind, benevolent, generous, He will never leave us, He is faithful, all powerful, all knowing, wise, He is the infinite…God!
We know the answers, we sing the songs…… The problem comes along when I think that I have suffered enough. It’s like saying: “Lesson learned – I’m good…. Thanks for the growth God, and now I think that this would be a good time for us to move on from this particular challenge”.
Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, months into years. Have you been there?
Have you laid awake in the middle of the night crying, “God, where are you?” And then, just to do it all over again the next night?
Suddenly, we are wrestling with the truths that we know in our heads and the truths that have not really landed upon our hearts. In other words, I know the right answers, but I do not “own” them. I lack conviction.
There is no better way for us to grow in our knowledge of God – heart level convictions – without accompanied suffering. Sure, we can read books about God. I have some great ones and I gladly recommend them to you! These are very helpful! But, at the end of the day…. it is not until we suffer that our understanding of who God is will grow. Suffering causes the roots to dig deep. That is the Christian in suffering. That is suffering with faith. I am not talking about putting on a smile and pretending all is well. No, I have found those to be shallow roots.
And so, while I am not a fan of suffering! And, while I do not want to see others suffer… I know of no better way for the Christian to grow in the knowledge of who God is.
2.) What do you believe about His Word?
Again, we know the right answers. The Bible is Inspired by God. It is authoritative, without error, sufficient, etc. We earned a nice sticker smiley face and an A+ on the quiz. But, how is our heart when the suffering is well……long….. suffering. What do we believe about the Word of God? Here are just 2 scriptures to challenge what we believe. Many, many more could be provided.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but 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.
(Romans 5:1-5 ESV)
Did the Apostle Paul just say that we rejoice in our sufferings? If you are not suffering, you answer with a hearty “yes, he did!”. But, if you are suffering, you answer with: “seriously?!?, God, I want to rejoice, actually, I would LOVE to rejoice….. please help me!”
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of 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 ESV)
What are you facing today? My prayer for you and me is that we might grow in our knowledge of who God is and His Word… And that knowledge would be more than things we “know”… oh, that they would be things that we “own”.
Friend, I know this is not easy! And this is why we pray to the One who has suffered far beyond all our suffering combined. He went to the cross and bore our sins. Every one of them rested on His shoulders. The Father’s wrath was poured out on His Son that you and I would be forgiven. Your greatest suffering is not what you are facing today. Praise be to God, your greatest suffering has been delivered a death-blow. Believer, you will NEVER suffer the Father’s wrath for your sins – Christ already has!