If any of you really know me, you know that the whole notion of suffering with joy is problematic for me. It’s one of my weaknesses. I’ve been on a long road of learning the art of joyful suffering. It’s not easy. I want to share with you a few things that I have learned that may help you along the way.
First of all, I’ve tried to pretend that suffering didn’t exist at certain times. Well, that don’t work. And that’s not Christian. We can’t lie. Suffering hurts. Suffering can really suck. And even worse, suffering can suck the joy right out of you if you let it.
The Word of God is really clear about suffering – it’s part of human life and those who follow Jesus will suffer. We don’t have to go looking for it. It finds it’s way to us. People let us down, situations don’t work out, our desires go unmet, our bodies feel pain, we feel alone at times, etc. Jesus didn’t come to eradicate suffering. Jesus came to eradicate sin.
But when those times of suffering come along, what do you do? I tell you this brothers and sisters: Rejoice! I wouldn’t tell you a bunch of bullish stuff if I didn’t believe it myself. I just don’t roll like that. Truly, rejoice in your sufferings.
When you experience suffering, those times are a great gift from God the Father. You must trust in Him and do not give the tempter any ground to walk on in your soul. During suffering there are great times of faith and belief for you, for the body of Christ, and for the glory of the Father in Heaven.
Times of suffering are good for you because they help you grow in your mind and your heart. These times are when your memory must be put to the service of your will – to recall all that the Lord has done for you and remember that the Lord will continue to take care of you!
The times of your suffering are good for the Church because you will be a witness of the faith that only Jesus Christ can give to you. In the face of sorrow, pain, and suffering, you can be a light for all of those who would not choose to believe in the constant and unfailing presence of God. His consolation isn’t merely feeling good or the absence of trials. The consolation of God is in His Person, who is always with us drawing us nearer to His heart.
The times of suffering can give great glory to God because during suffering He can be greatly loved by your willful acceptance of His providence, His cross, and His plan for human life! God knows what He is doing, and the fact that you are willing and able to believe in Him during your own trial shows a great lack of self centeredness and focus upon Him.
In your weakness, He is strong. When you suffer, be honest about it – with God. Reach out to Him. He is the One that you long for. And further, the longing of His heart far outweighs your own. Hope! Rejoice – for God is always near. Even though there is pain, God is there – and if you are truly in Love with Him rather than comfort, you will rejoice always! Pain can be present in the Face of God! Joy and sorrow are One in Him.
Count it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. – James 1:2-3