Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4 NIV
These words cut me to the heart as an email with these words dropped into my inbox:
Even in the depths of suffering, Christ does not explain, but he calls the person to follow him on the way to the cross and to final glory. Suffering is not glorified for its own sake, but as a force for transformation and conversion. It can bring the person who suffers to maturity and personal growth. When those who suffer are open to this grace through the inward power of the Holy Spirit, suffering will bring them to the kingdom of God.
Suffering brings me closer to God? Really?
Recently dealing with some digestive issues that often leave me with debilitating symptoms such as nausea and abdominal pain, the thought that my illness was helping me grow closer to God were tough words to read.
Yet, all of the true followers of God suffered in some way, eleven of the disciples were martyred, the Apostle John spent his last days exiled on an island. The apostle Paul had an unnamed thorn in the flesh. Suffering is one of the benchmarks in the life of a disciple.
We all will suffer at some time or another. Job loss, illness, the death of a loved one will all subject us to suffering. But it’s not the fact that we suffer; it is our reaction to our suffering.
James says we should consider our suffering joy. Why? Because suffering forces us to lean completely on Christ, abiding in the Vine that gives our branches living water. When we surrender our control to Jesus, He provides and protects us in a way that is beyond our wildest imaginations. Surrender allows us to yield our desires to make way for Jesus’s desires. Surrender allows us to experience the inner freedom afforded to us through Jesus’ death on the cross.
We all suffer. But surrender is the key to turn our suffering into joy.
Lord, help us to yield our lives to you so we can experience joy in the midst of our suffering.