Obviously I have been pondering suffering lately. God has notched up the word a degree or two on my spiritual radar and as much as I thought I knew about suffering I have realized I haven't even scratched the surface on the gift God has given me. As
fat lazy wealthy arrogant entitled American Christians we have created for ourselves a God foreign to the God of the Bible when we discredit suffering as part of God's plan to sanctify us. Just this morning I read in scripture how God loves us, cherishes us, has predestined us, but also how He has granted to us the privilege of not only believing in Christ, but also to suffer for Him. It has been granted as a gift to suffer for Christ. Trying to wrap my brain around that thought on a deeper level has caused me to wonder how suffering can be a gift.
One of my first clues was found in Galatians 3: 22a~ But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin. Christian brother and sister listen to me: this world is not our home. We have made ourselves so comfortable here in this foreign land, gotten so use to her gods, rituals, customs, foods and beliefs that we ourselves have forgotten our first love. God never intended for us to be comfortable here and He will not share His glory with anyone or anything, not even the blinking little lights of Hollywood that we welcome into our homes.
A study on the Israelites reveals a people who continued to go astray and a God who graciously continued to bring them back through hard times. Just as a parent who continually disciplines their spoiled little child in order to train them up to be a joy, God continually disciplines his children to resemble Him. Suffering wakes us up to the sinfulness of this fallen world and reminds us that this is not our home. It makes us long for our eternal home when God will make things right forever.
Suffering pries our hands off of the treasures we hold so dear and makes us look deeper at what God holds dear. We can't take any of this stuff with us. All of Trent's belongings are here~ his guns, his prized possessions, his trophy bass, his pictures, his socks. All that mattered was what he had done with and for Jesus Christ.
Paul tells us in Philippians 1:12 that because of suffering the gospel will be advanced. Rarely does the gospel go out with so much success without suffering preceding it. Deep down we are all looking for a way to make sense of this world, and deep down we all know that there is a God, but rarely do we take the time to consider this God until we are forced to stop entertaining ourselves long enough and look at the hard things of life. Death is a hard thing in this life. Looking at your own son's death is even harder and has a way to wake you up a bit. God has allowed me to embrace this as His perfect plan which He says He rejoices in.
Romans 1 says to deny the God of the Bible and turn Him into a God of our liking causes us to be turned over to our own sinfulness. The God that is revealed in Scripture says that He has a plan for suffering and it will always bring Him glory, and somehow, us joy. Suffering is the way that God chose to bring salvation to the world and suffering is the way that the gospel goes forth. May we learn to move on from the elementary teachings and long for the deeper things of God my friends.