I had a little realization lately about suffering.
I’m sure you’re like me in that you’ve been through a hard time or two in your life. Whether a health scare, losing someone you loved dearly or relationships that seem impossible to be rebuilt- we’ve all had to walk through some type of difficult season. First Peter 1:6 calls it “being distressed by various trials.” All sorts of trials that come into our lives, and we wonder why in the world it’s happened and when it’s going be over.
In a recent conversation with a friend, I recalled a hard time that I had gone through a few years ago. Even though by now I’m no longer in the middle of that difficulty, I found myself still struggling with what happened. As I opened up about it, my friend tried to encourage me by reminding me of the good that has come of out what happened… and how much stronger I probably am now… and how much of a better Christian I am because of it.
And sure, by God’s grace, good has come out of it. But, as she spoke, I began asking myself:
How am I more like Christ because of what I went through?
What good fruit was produced in me by going through that trial?
How was my character molded by what happened?
I cringed a little inwardly because I knew the answers to these questions. Deep down, there was a seed of bitterness that I had been holding on to. And unforgiveness that I did not want to let go. And pride that I had been unwilling to put down. And then, before I knew it, cynicism began to rule instead of faith.
And here is where my little realization happened.
In that moment, I began to see that suffering does not equal godliness. Just because I was able to grit my teeth and push through a hard time, that did not automatically mean I came out on the other side bearing good fruit like love or joy or peace or patience.
Instead of leaning into God when it got hard, I just gave a little nod to the Scriptures and then walked in my own ways instead of His. Now a few years removed from the trial, I see blessings that could have been mine if I had had the faith to trust God when I didn’t feel like it.
I can actually look to the Lord during trials and find joy- not in the circumstance itself- but in the difference that God is working inside me. These are real blessings… endurance, proven character, hope. And they can be ours if we will lean into God when trials come.
Here’s what Spurgeon said about Romans 5:3:
“We have need of patience, and here we see the way of getting it. It is only by enduring that we learn to endure, even as by swimming men learn to swim. You could not learn that art on dry land, nor learn patience without trouble.
Tribulation in and of itself works petulance, unbelief and rebellion. It is only by the sacred alchemy of grace that it is made to work in us patience…. Oh, for the grace to let my trials bless me! Lord, I ask Thee to remove my affliction, but I beseech Thee ten times more to remove my impatience.”
–Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith: Daily Readings by C.H. Spurgeon
My heart echoes Spurgeon’s cry! God, grant me the grace to lean in to Your ways during trials. Help me believe that You can actually produce these awesome qualities in me.
How have you seen God bring change in you as you’ve trusted in Him during hard times? I’d love to be encouraged by your story! Share in the comments, if you’d like. =)
Photo: Torbak Hopper