I want to begin this article with a quote from a brother who commented on my blog last year in December. Reading his words back then for the very first time, they really hit me and I felt they had come directly from God. Meanwhile I even saw that his whole comment has been a prophetic message for me. Here’s Dan Dailey’s comment.
“I’ve come to believe God actually does his work in us exclusively through suffering. This isn’t to say there aren’t seasons of rest given also by God’s hand, because both suffering and rest are vital and given to us by him. One is not more important than the other, but they both come by his hand and in his timing and serve very different roles. James 1 tells us clearly that it is the perseverance through trials that brings us to maturity and completion.
When I reflect on every major life shift and revelation he has brought me to, it’s always accompanied by trials. Every time. This is a pattern that holds up in the Bible, too.
People like to say God never gives us more than we can handle, but I’ve come to believe he deliberately gives us more than we can handle… though never more than HE can handle. These times of heartache and suffering drive us to rely on him. It’s in these times I learn to accept my weakness and exchange it for his strength.
It’s also important to remember that ALL things are ultimately for the glory of God. He blesses and curses. He brings life and death. He shows grace and hardens hearts. I can’t begin to fathom his purposes, but I know it’s always for his glory and the good of those he calls his own. All creation is made to point to his glory, and so are our sufferings.
We like to look for the good outcome of every difficult situation, attempting to rationalize trials as for a purpose we can quantify, but I suspect sometimes hardship serves to glorify him in ways we’ll never see or be able to reconcile. This doesn’t mean he isn’t good, it simply means we are finite and he is infinite. His ways are not our ways. He is wild and untamed, answering to no man and acting in any way he pleases.
I don’t understand this amazing God we serve, but I trust him.”
Indeed, our human nature, our old Adam and Eve, our old self is self-focused and superficial because it neither wants to suffer pain nor to dig deeper into the suffering of others. Our old self is rather inclined to put any kind of band-aid on festering wounds so that it does not see the pain although it is still there. Recently I have come to realize that as long as we are not able to embrace pain as given by God, we won’t ever be able to be patient in tribulation and to really share the pain of others who suffer. As wonderful as it is to rest in God’s peace, to enjoy His love and to feel joy, such periods of my life did never leave me changed. Instead, afterwards, when I was suffering again, I saw how blinded I had been by own “light” during all those spiritual highs, still thinking it had something to do with ME. It is good that God took all of His blessings away from me recently, except for His permanent presence. I am still assured that He is with me although there is no positive feeling left.
Today in the morning, as so often lately, I awoke after a too short night with ongoing pain in my heart and all in tears. However, suddenly I saw somehow that it REALLY makes sense to suffer that way. Actually, pain and suffering do not automatically change us, since if so, the whole world would look much differently right now. I cannot explain to you HOW I realized it, but I suddenly saw that God and Jesus do not live on an “alien planet” aka Heaven where they always live in joy and peace and love together while we as miserable human beings on earth are still struggling with our lives. Instead, although God Himself never changes, He is the author of ALL our feelings. I believe that God’s compassion goes way deeper than we might imagine, for it is written,
“But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men. To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth, To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High, To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not. Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?” (Lamentations 3:32-38 KJV)
I would be interested to hear your thoughts and/or experiences on the subject of suffering. Please, feel free to weigh in with your ideas that came to mind.