This is an incomplete post, and probably always will be. When can our finite minds and limited faith plumb the depth of all God has for us in our suffering? Nonetheless, let’s start the discussion….
Until a Christian suffers loss, pain or lack of control, I don’t believe that we can hear the concept that God plans to change us/conform us/transform us into the image of His Son. Up until we face insurmountable problems or loss, we are deaf to the idea of God transforming us into the image of His Son – despite the fact that the principle of God transforming us is all over God’s Word.
Romans 8:29 NLT
For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
We cannot become like His Son unless we suffer like His Son, unless we bear His marks. I don’t expect any of us will be hanging on a cross soon, but there are so many ways humanity suffers – estrangement from loved ones, disease, financial hardships, being the subject of gossip, rejection by friends. The list of “tools” God might use to conform us is endless.
Up until we suffer, the majority of followers of Jesus believe that they need to clean up their act for the Lord, to get good enough for Him. The “good enough, self-help dance” goes on until God is ready to reveal how futile our best is. Think of the Old Testament quote in Isaiah 64:6?
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
That isn’t “pre Christian.” Unbelievers don’t have righteous acts.
God expects us to follow Him. The idea of not earning His righteousness is not a get out of jail free devotional, which is why Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to test themselves:
Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.
Another side of the coin of suffering? How God uses it. Consider 2 Corinthians 1:6
Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. (New Living Translation)
If we don’t learn from our sufferings and use our sufferings to comfort others, then our sufferings are merely “pain.” I don’t know about you, but I can endure far more when I have hope that God is going to use my pain for good.
Now that I am a few years down the road from my crisis season of suffering, I can assure you it brings me unspeakable joy when I can comfort someone in their crisis season of suffering. After my story, I can comfort them with hope–with the truth that God can redeem all things.
To be honest, I now have things I can say. Before my own crisis season of suffering, I drew only one dimensional platitudes when someone came to me for comfort in their suffering.
That’s a terrible feeling when you cannot truly testify to the Lord’s goodness and provision to others.
Consider….God has big plans for you. They maybe not big plans as you change the world, but big plans as you minister to those around you one by one. The journey may begin when He reveals His big plans for you to suffer. Consider it all joy my brethren when you encounter various trials.