A few years back I had an opportunity to house two wonderful travelers from Switzerland. We talked about many things, one of which was the attitude of the overall laziness and lack of resolve people show when faced with difficult situations. We were specifically talking about marriage, but it is fair to say this does not only fit this circumstance. This brings me to one of the most difficult truths of the Christian faith: standing firm in times of suffering. Suffering for your faith is necessary, good, and often required in order to refine your faith. This idea goes directly against the general “do what feels good” attitude of most people.
There are many sufferings that come due to living in a fallen sinful world. In these cases I believe that it is right to grieve and to mourn evil and that pain is a reality we face; after all, even “Jesus wept” when faced with the pain in our world. In these cases it is right to mourn but always remember that God is in control. As my friend Jimmy used to say during his most difficult times, “God is still on the throne,” as if to say, “Life is hard, but I know He is still in control.” See Romans 8:28 for more on that.
We should remind ourselves that as Christians, suffering will come (Matt 5:11, 1 Peter 1:6-7). The sufferings Peter reminds us of are (1) the suffering that comes due to being a man or woman in desperate pursuit of God and (2) the suffering that comes with taking a stand for your faith when it goes directly against cultural norms. A brilliant example of this is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian who was also a participant in the German Resistance movement against Nazism. Because of his resistance, he and many others faced imprisonment, beatings, and execution. What kept him going? I would venture to guess it was a mixture of wholehearted devotion to God and an understanding that true devotion requires suffering and risk. For the Christian this life is not the end; this is only the beginning, the point at the beginning of the ray (for my geometry nerds). Dietrich was living for the imperishable and not allowing the perishable to hold him back. What will your response be when persecution comes, when suffering comes? Will you lay down your arms and run away, or will you be like Peter and John and rejoice “because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name”?
Such suffering is a gift from God to make us more like Christ, for it is a part of our inheritance as His children that we inherit the suffering. Hebrews 12:8 explains it this way: “If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” The character that this kind of suffering develops, the aspects of God that this kind of suffering allows us to see, and the ways in which this kind of suffering allows us to communicate with Him is precious beyond all belief and is not to be underestimated or shied away from.
That is not to say persevering through suffering is easy. It is intensely difficult; the important things in life often are. But there are two things to remember. First, you are not alone. The Holy Spirit has been sent by the Father to walk with us, guide us, counsel us. He is our Comforter and holds us as we walk through these trials. Second, there is purpose to this suffering you find yourself in. Just as precious metals must be melted down and filtered to get rid of impurities, so the Christian must be broken down and rebuilt to sift out his or her impurities.
May you suffer well through the trials of faith as you earnestly pursue God in your life.
Bryce & Tamara Wold (paragraph 4)