Have you ever watched someone dealing with something difficult and wonder why?
You may find yourself asking questions like:
Why do they have to suffer so much Lord?
Why so much tragedy, heartache, sorrow and pain?
When will they ever get a break, Lord?
I have found myself wondering about this when I thought about several people in my life. Over the last several years, I have watched and walked alongside some who I hold dear that have endured sudden deaths of loved ones, ill family members, family divisions, loss of a job, divorce, abuse, depression, financial hardships and children affected because of a divorce, accidents, etc.
I also began wondering why some people have to wait so long for what some would consider “good” things, i.e. a baby, a parent or loved one to get well, one’s marriage or strained relationship to be restored, a spouse, a new job or a break from financial trouble.
Are they bitter or better?
Resentful or grateful?
Do they love unconditionally or are they numb to feeling, experiencing and/or giving love altogether?
Do they ask ‘why me’ or do they ponder, ‘why NOT me?’
Do they continue wallowing in the pain or focus on the purpose?
Are they genuine in their interactions with others or do they become the great pretenders?
Are their conversations authentic and heartfelt or are they insincere and emotionless?
Do their words have meaning and carry weight or are they empty and lifeless?
There are all of these questions, but I haven’t reached any conclusions. I believe, however, I have picked up some nuggets and perspective along the way.
One of the things that the Lord revealed to me when I came face to face with this situation, yet again, was that I had a choice to change. I had a choice to either continue to suffer in vain allowing it to cripple me or to suffer, with the purpose of allowing the situation to change me, humble me, grow the fruit of the Spirit in me and so much more.
I came to the realization that I could not avoid it.
It was happening.
There was no going around it, trying to pray it away or pretending it wasn’t there.
Either I was going to be obedient to the things He was calling me to do in the midst of it or I wasn’t.
It was as simple as that.
What He showed me (once I stopped making it all about me) was that my suffering wasn’t in vain.
It had purpose.
He reminded me of two instances that happened in the same week about a month ago where it was clear to me that what I had endured in other situations was not for me alone.
The first came by way of a dear friend who was struggling with depression and reached out to me.
I was able to share with her my struggles, openly and honestly, and hopefully provided some comfort that there is hope beyond the darkness and that things would get better. I was a living, walking testimony!
Another friend was struggling relationally. I was able to share with her how the Lord had kept me through a really dark season in my life while in a relationship that was very unhealthy for me.
I don’t say this to boast. Both experiences were very humbling to me and made me realize, years later, that my suffering and my obedience during those moments were not in vain.
One day I believe I will be able to encourage someone else who may be enduring something similar to what I have experienced with my own current situation.
PSA: If you have entered the army of the Lord as a solider and said “Yes” to Jesus, you CANNOT escape suffering.
So I decided if I can’t get out of it, why suffer in vain?
If I gotta go through it anyway, I better make it count!
Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him. ~Hebrews 5:8-9 (emphasis mine)
This verse hit me like a ton of bricks when I read it last year as I was preparing an assignment for a leadership course I was taking.
Obedience is learned through suffering. Jesus had to learn it.
So do we.
Suffering is what qualifies us for the good works God planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10), i.e the purpose which He is calling us to-even while we are waiting.
It isn’t our education, money, fame, status, position, title, awards, accolades, or material things that qualifies us, but it’s…..
Wait for it….
Obedience through suffering.
Christ went this way and therefore, we are not exempt.
Let’s not suffer in vain.
We might as well learn obedience as we suffer, since we can’t escape it.
People may not change in a situation and it may cause or lead you to suffering that may not be fair.
The situation or circumstances may not change.
We have no control over that. What we do have control of is whether we change or not, whether we are obedient or not and whether we are just going to suffer in vain or grow and change through it.
Let us learn to take the bitter with the sweet.
The trials with the triumph.
The valleys with the victories.
The crucifixion with the resurrection.
Yes, it is contrary to the world’s way.
It is God’s way.
Don’t let anyone fool you or tell you otherwise.
Salvation means suffering.
But I have another truth for you:
So make it count!
Scripture references: Matthew 5:45, John 16:33, 1 Peter 2:21
Photo credit: Tim Gage flickr, TheLastCrisis, Facebook covers
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