Stuff happens. How can we find meaning in suffering?
2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.
For me as a child of God, I’m discovering that suffering is a necessary course of action, an essential process by which I am being transformed from one state of being to another ultimately resulting in conformity into the image of Christ…I take on his attributes…I look like Him.
Rom 8:29 “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”;
Phil 3:21 “He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory…”
My son, so eloquently stated what I have been having trouble articulating: “Many people focus on the fact that Jesus died, was buried, and on the third day rose again. Not so many emphasize that He “*suffered*, died, and was buried”. To suffer is the human experience of being separated from God; to suffer as a Christian is to be united to Christ as He carried His cross…Either we ridicule the suffering, or embrace it and beg to be remembered when the suffering King comes in glory.”
As a member of His body, we can personally enter into His passion through our suffering. We become one with Him, through bearing our own cross of humiliations, persecutions, and pain. And in becoming one with Him, he produces righteousness in us…His glory is revealed in us, and His Spirit rests on us. (1 Peter 4:12) Of course it’s not pleasant, no discipline is pleasant at the time (Hebrews 12), but look what happens in us through it…
Hebrews 12:11 Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Rom 5:1-5 suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…that doesn’t disappoint…God’s love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
James 1:3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have
its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
As a child of God, I want to be perfect and complete. I want to have the fruits of righteousness in my life, I strive to develop endurance, and good character, and a hope that is brought to fulfillment of the work that God began in my life. As such, I am changing my mind about suffering, and learning to embrace the cross that I once shunned, so that Jesus can shine through me to a world who needs to see Him. It doesn’t come overnight, and it doesn’t come easy. Simply stated, I am not there yet. I will not always be a good example, I will stumble, I fully expect to fall, but I don’t give up. I so totally relate to Paul and Timothy in the letter to the Philippians:
Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you.