Psalms 5; 147:1-11, Jeremiah 8:4-7, 18-9:6, Romans 5:1-11, John 8:12-20
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us…
– Romans 5:3-4
I did not put you here to suffer. I did not put you here to whine.
I put you here to love another and to get out and have a good time.
– The Rainmakers, “Let My People Go-Go”
Suffering, while an inevitable part of the Christian journey, is never meant to be the destination. We are assured that, through the glory of God, all suffering can be transformed for good. We don’t need to seek pointless suffering just for the sake of enduring it, but when we need to exercise self-discipline or find suffering inescapable, we can turn that suffering over to God. But let’s not for a minute assume this is a passive process which requires nothing of us but curling up into a cocoon of self-pity and waiting for divine metamorphosis. It takes intention.
The steps in this process all require conscious choices on our part. Endurance training is something we take for granted in athletics, but not as often in other parts of life. Can we teach ourselves to view suffering as a form of spiritual training which develops our spiritual muscles? What about character? We romanticize the idea of sports building character, but not every top athlete is an upstanding citizen. Our spiritual training needs to be tempered with humility and mercy, a desire to serve rather than conquer.
The best coaches – and their best players – embrace being part of a greater story. It’s that type of character – the type that recognizes our greatest glory does not begin and end with our personal achievements and failures – which opens us up to hope. Hope is only present when we can see the big picture, the picture that tells the story of God’s kingdom becoming reality.
Athletes build endurance through difficulty. Butterflies nearly die before leaving the cocoon. Neither of them are victims of suffering; they use it to transform themselves into something miraculous.
Comfort: Suffering is not inflicted on us by God…
Challenge: … but God can help us through it.
Prayer: God of holy mystery, I trust you above anything. Amen.
Discussion: How have you dealt with suffering?
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