The word suffering usually brings to mind an extended period of pain or other unpleasant sensation. It’s the feeling associated with a bad situation, some sort of trouble, trial or challenge. Not many of us would be willing to open the front door of our lives to suffering. I know if I see trouble walking close by my first instinct is to bolt the door, close the blinds and pray it keeps on walkin’. I had a pastor once who suggested that his congregation could use a little more trouble in life. I was already going through it. Recently divorced and struggling as a single parent, more trouble to be the last thing I needed.
It’s not just the external situation that causes suffering but also the internal conversation that talks to the trouble, attacking my self-esteem. The negative voices in my head play louder than the bass rattling the trunks of some of those cars in the hood. Fear of failure and self-doubt free-style a off-beat rap that pinches the nerves in my shoulders and makes my spirit slouch. It’s difficult to see the benefit that comes from keeping step with trouble.
There are two biblical promises that I’ve come to count on; one helps me deal with the other. Jesus promises that we will experience trouble in this world. It’s guaranteed. But here’s the deal: the promise that covers this guarantee is God’s love for us. Because of God’s love “all things [yes, even that ugly “thing” hidden in the closet] work together for good to them that love the Lord.” (Romans 8:28) Because of God’s love, Peter reckoned that “the suffering of this present moment is not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
When trouble is done with us, we are left stronger, glorious. We are stiff and sore from the work-out, but the exercise has served its purpose. Great suffering creates a lean, mean fightin’ machine and if we’re armed with God’s Word, we’re ready and able to “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope.” (Romans 5:3) I’m not saying I’m going to dress up and go looking for a night out on the town with trouble, but with God’s love, I’ll be ready to tango when trouble finds me.
1. How does self-esteem help or hinder your ability to persevere?
2. Consider the times you have suffered in life. How did these experiences make you better? How does the past suffering prepare you for the troubles ahead?
“Lord, you are the potter and I am the clay. Forgive me for thinking I know what’s best for my life. You know what is needed to shape me into the image of your Son, Jesus Christ. I surrender my suffering to you to use for your purposes. You are my hope.” Amen