Are you suffering? Is it causing you to doubt the love and faithfulness of God? Do you feel that your suffering is punishment for your guilt, and you’ve got to somehow make it right so you can escape? Don’t give in to that thinking (unless of course you’re paying the consequences of poor choices)!
I have heard it preached and proclaimed that those who are in the perfect will of God are immune from suffering, and the material blessing on their lives is proof of God’s favor. On the flip side, if someone is going through trials and hardships, they must not be living in the will of God, and need to repent and get right before they can again experience the favor of God! This message doesn’t align with what I see in Scripture.
For a great example of this, we can look at something Jesus prayed shortly before He was betrayed:
“’Abba, Father,’ he cried out, ‘everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine’” (Mark 14:36 NLT).
Jesus knew He would soon have to endure horrible suffering, and He was not exactly thrilled about it! Although He prayed to be released from the trials to come, He was submitted to his Father’s will. That evening Jesus was betrayed by a friend, falsely accused, slapped and punched. The next day He was flogged, mocked, and nailed to the cross. He carried the sin of the world, and felt abandoned by his Father. Then, He died.
Are we willing to suffer in the will of God? Those of us who call ourselves Christians, or Christ followers, should not be so quick to try to wriggle our way out of suffering. Jesus said, “A slave is not greater than the master” (John 15:20 NLT). We cannot expect an easier road than our Master had to walk. There are times when living in the will of God is not a field of daisies and tulips! Living submitted to God brings times of sorrow and heartache. But in the midst of the hardship, we know that “joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NLT). We know that there is a joy set before us to help us endure the suffering.
“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1b-2 NLT).
Not only is there joy ahead of us on the other side of our heartache and pain, but suffering itself is actually advantageous! No, I’m not encouraging you to start beating yourself or to go seeking out trials and tribulations. Don’t worry, if you’re not in a rough season right now, your time will come! But when it does, I want you to have the right mindset.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (Romans 5:3-4 NLT).
“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT)!
Don’t shortchange yourself and miss out on the benefits to come! Endure suffering as Christ did, and reap the rewards of endurance, strong character, confident hope, and eternal glory. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and run your race well!