I’ve been thinking about a whole lot of things lately, but none as much as the way that God calls us to live out our lives in this world. I think that that might be the most dominating thought that ever crosses my mind. Regardless, it brings me to a thought that has been talked about by many and it is the topic of Suffering.
This is such a horribly misunderstood word in the American culture because it goes against almost everything that we strive for and reach for inside the American Dream. It also cuts against the grain of most people’s understanding of Jeremiah 29:11. How can a God that has a perfect plan that is supposed to be a plan to not harm me and to make me prosper ever expect or worse, command, that I suffer for His name? That just can’t be right.
Not only so, but wet also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. -Romans 5:3-5
It is quite clear that we should suffer as part of our discipleship of Christ. We can expect it to happen! It is not enough to think that it won’t come.
Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. – 2 Timothy 2:3
Paul seems to suggest that the uniform of a follower of Christ is suffering. And this idea of hardship and strife creates a friction between my mind and my heart. For so long, we have expected that by being close to God, we would be far from hardship. Inversely equal, when we feel hardship and have to suffer for the Christ, we find ourselves feeling God as absent. We have come to believe this:
Hardship = Absence of God
But that is so not true! If anything the opposite is true. It seems a bit over the top to say it, but how many times do we look through Scripture and see people who seem to think that they are suffering and find out that God is not far, but actually quite near. On top of that, how often do we read of times when people knew that they were going to potentially suffer and simply obey and God shows up in a crazy supernatural way? Shadrach, Meeshach, and Abednego? Stephen? Moses? Abraham? Esther? Job?
Maybe the formula should look like this:
Hardship = Opportunity to Press Into God
Let’s commit together, today, to believe and know that when we face hardships, that God is not far, and so we should press into Him. That we come to recognize that this is Him offering us the opportunity to dive into what He has for us.