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Isn’t it interesting that we tend to count our blessings most when “bad” things happen?
It is after a major accident that we are glad to be alive, or post loss that we are grateful for those who truly love us. It seems that we need disruptions to remind us that life isn’t actually in our control and that there is something more important “out there”.
Yet the faster we get over things, the sooner we forget these pseudo-lessons. Reminders seem fleeting and unable to impact us in a way that changes something in our hearts.
This, the Bible suggests, is the blessing of endurance. Troubles and suffering that endure teach us, rather than remind us, to rely on our Lord and to look on our lives in light of Him. We are to glory in our sufferings, God says in Romans 5:
” And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
If God chooses to, He can heal the sick, prevent accidents, and delay the time of death. There are certainly times that He has. We often find that this is what we pray for. Or, if not such extreme miracles, we pray that recovery is speedy or that joy come quickly. Why do we fear suffering, tribulation, and uncomfortable emotions? Surely no one needs to desire or wish for trouble, but when it comes, as it did for Jesus, we are to trust in God’s will. And He produces much in our hearts in our times of need.
Consider what Psalm 105:19 says about God’s work in the suffering of Joseph (who was sold into slavery and thrown into jail for no sin of his own!):
“Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character.”
In Psalm 73, we are given an example of one who begins to slip from righteousness because He focuses on how wicked people seem to have no trouble at all. The writer begins to look around and grow envious of how happy others earthly lives. Meanwhile, his own Godly life is one of affliction. He comes to this conclusion in verses 20-28:
“They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.
When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.”
Sometimes life is a lot to endure when we look around and see how other’s lives seem to go. Particularly when we suffer. Yet our endurance, when rooted in the Lord, can be a blessing.
The “end goal” of our lives as Christians is that we are near to our God. Joy is not the goal. Prosperity is not the goal. These might be a means to our end goal, but we must realize that suffering can also be a means.
It is good for us to be near our God. He is our desire and our glory. If it is in suffering that we spend our days seeking Him, learning from Him, and relying on Him, than we can count our having to endure as a blessing.
In light of our Savior, our hope is secure. He is faithful. His love is unfailing. Time and time again, He has proved Himself merciful. Our suffering does not change the Lord, but the Lord can certainly draw our hearts, shaping them as His, through our suffering.
Suffering is suffering. Having to persevere is what it is. We don’t have to feign joy and peace, or pronounce platitudes to get by effectively. Our hope is in the Lord. His Spirit is poured into us…isn’t that enough? Isn’t His provision sufficient so that we are not “put to shame,” but are all the more able to glory in Him (Romans 5:5)?