Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Worthwhile Suffering

I suppose when we value the outcome, we’ll endure many things. People will eat tasteless food for months to be able to fit in clothes they’ve outgrown. People will allow doctors to cut and wound them to the point of inflicting great pain because they believe it will bring relief and healing. People will make limitless sacrifices if they believe it would bring a desirable outcome.

When you think about suffering, do you think about the outcome that will be produced? We fuss, gripe, complain and are given to bad attitudes during times of suffering and it is generally because we do not believe there is any valuable result from our suffering. When we face suffering in this way or with this attitude we are wrong. Suffering brings an outcome. And it should not be just any outcome. God desires that suffering bring a helpful outcome.

Listen to what the Bible says about the suffering of Christians, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5, ESV)

For those who have been made right with God by the work of Jesus and have peace with God because of the grace He has shown them, they can rest assured that God is using their suffering for good. We see that suffering sets a process in motion that will ultimately lead to a stronger character and a better hope. What is the hope? Well, the hope is that our pain is leading us in a direction. Acts 14:22 says that through many trials believers will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Christians can know that God is using suffering to prepare them to be in His presence and to know the full joy of relationship with Him forever. Would you consider that a worthwhile outcome?

Suffering isn’t limited to benefits in eternity, though.

The previous passage says that God desires to use suffering to build greater character. Suffering build endurance. Suffering makes us better encouragers. Suffering makes us better sympathizers. Suffering makes us realize what really matters. Suffering makes us better.

How do you deal with suffering? We can endure just about anything if we know that it provides a worthwhile return. Is the Kingdom of Heaven a worthwhile return to you? Is an increased character a worthwhile return to you? If so, suffer well. If not, think through what gives you real hope to see if its returns are as valuable as the returns God offers suffering?

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