As I read about 2 churches in the small town of Emmett, ID that an arsonist burned Saturday, it stuck me that trials are the times when followers of Jesus shine brightest. Difficulties provide opportunities to show love in very tangible ways. Others can see our faith so much better when it’s tested. A believer’s authentic faith, when enduring trials, is undeniable. As James said in James1:2-4 (ESV), “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Perhaps this hits home more because of the suffering of Saeed Abedini. It breaks my heart to see a fellow believer, being so mistreated for Christ. And yet I see in Naghmeh, his wife, such constant faith and steadfast love for others in the midst of her own excruciating pain. What a blessing we are able to be if we will choose in our most dire situations to raise our hands to Jesus and say, “Your will rather than mine, Lord!” Others are blessed and encouraged to themselves cling to Jesus in their difficulties.
Often our trials are intended for those who don’t know the Lord as their personal savior to be able to witness a dramatic different response to pain! When we glorify God, as Job did, during our distress, others will be drawn to Him. They will see His miraculous power shining through us, and be drawn to that light and life!
Not only does it draw others and encourage other believers when they see our hearts be right before God in times of distress; but it encourages God. Yes I really did say that. God tells us time and again in scripture that he allows trials to come into our lives to see how we will respond. Does He know how? Yes. He knows all. But there is still a very real part of God’s character that wants to see our faith lived out. And faith isn’t proven unless their is hardship.
I remember the first time the Lord spoke that truth to my heart. I did not want to hear it. I was too young spiritually to understand and I had my first disagreement with the Living God. I said, but Lord, this is what I want and it is a righteous choice, and you could make it happen, and it will just be far to painful if you don’t allow my will here. He whispered to my heart this truth, that everyone must suffer. It’s just a matter of how that will come. It is a requirement of this life, though. We ended that conversation with me still not understanding why I would have to suffer. I hadn’t been perfect, I knew that, but I had honored God, and loved Him as completely as I knew how. I was dedicated to Him when most everyone around me didn’t bother. So why did I have to have this pain. This one thing that mattered taken away? I didn’t understand then, but I do now. I can’t say that I have learned to love the idea of suffering, but I can say I have found that I love the fruits of the spirit that it always produces in those who truly love God. Patience, kindness, compassion, gentleness, peace that is incomprehensible – when we choose to hand the pain to the Lord.
I will add that there are times that suffering does not produce immediate fruit. It grows faster if you submit to the Lord willingly.
If you can’t love the suffering, and few of us can, then at least strive to see the good that comes from it. God indeed works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
The greater the suffering, the more glory He will receive. Lets learn to develop a theology of suffering that in the very least embraces the changes brought about in the process. Praise Jesus!