Picture this. You walk into church this Sunday to find that all the seats have been removed. Rows of buffet-style serving lines are in their place. Everyone is instructed to get a serving of whatever spiritual food he or she desires. Many rush to the dessert section to load up with joy, peace, prosperity … you get the picture.
As you make your way through the line, you realize that one item is left untouched. A generous supply of suffering sits under the heat lamp.
You have a decision to make. Dish yourself a generous helping, dip out a mere mouthful like you did as a kid with the vegetables your mom made you eat, or leave it completely untouched like the others ahead of you in line.
If you’re anything like me, your first instinct is just to roll on by. After all, everything about our human instinct tells us to avoid suffering at all costs. But in God’s economy, suffering has great value.
Ecclesiastes 7:3 (NLT) says, “Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us.”
It’s hard to fathom that sorrow could possibly be better than laughter, but more often than not, we grow far more in seasons of suffering than in seasons of success. And if our end game is to be like Christ, there’s just no possible way to achieve that without suffering.
Romans 8:17 (NIV) says, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
Now God isn’t commanding us to go out and intentionally seek suffering, especially when it’s suffering brought on by our own sin. But when difficult times come our way, He is calling us to receive them with joy (check out James 1:2-4). He longs for us to become spiritually mature, and He knows that suffering is one of the most effective ways to help us get there. But thankfully, Christ makes sure that we do not have to endure our season of suffering alone.
2 Corinthians 1:5 (NIV), “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”
So if you’re struggling today, turn to Christ for comfort. He’s no stranger to suffering, so there’s no better hand to hold on the journey. Trust in the faithfulness of God and let His refining influence take full effect in your life. And when all is said and done, you just might find yourself looking a lot more like Christ.
Merritt has served for nearly a decade in numerous capacities with Living on the Edge, including storyteller and blog managing editor. She and her husband make their home in Brenham, TX, where they are currently raising three rambunctious children and a renegade dachshund.More Articles by Merritt