The Valuable School of Suffering
Getting Through the Trials
Have you seen the bumper sticker that says, “Life is hard; then you die.”? When I first read those words, they rang so true with my experience at the time that I really didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. At one time or another nearly everyone experiences the frustration of feeling that life is a huge hassle with little hope for improvement. Some people feel this way a lot and experience depression. A few take it seriously enough to attempt to end their lives, which seem so difficult.
In the early years of my Christian experience, I somehow got the impression that a decisive commitment to Jesus Christ would change all this. I fell into the type of thinking that if I followed Christ closely, problems would resolve themselves, life would be happy and everything would be positive. While it is true that believers experience a new quality of life, it is not true that the problems and hardships of everyday living automatically go away.
Christ’s followers get sick, have differences with people and suffer like anyone else. The difference is not in the circumstances of life, but in life’s source and direction. The person uncommitted to Christ has few effective resources and little hope of rising above the frustration above what they can muster within themselves and their personal network; followers of Jesus have available the power of the living God to cope with life, and the reassurance of eternal life as well.
The New Testament book of Acts, chapter 14, verse 22 states that, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Suffering is an essential part of our redemption—not because suffering itself gives eternal life—that only comes by faith in Christ. But the growing experience between conversion to Christ and the completeness we will know in eternity, cannot have its effect without the benefit of hardship. In other words, hardships are the schooling of Christian maturity.
So, frustrations, problems, hardships are not roadblocks to spirituality, but are in fact absolutely essential to it. According to Hebrews 2:10, Jesus himself was perfected in his humanity through suffering. If the Son of God had to submit to the school of suffering, can that training be anything less than essential for the rest of us?
The words to the old favorite hymn “Be Still, My Soul” were written by Katharina von Schlegel. The first verse goes like this: “Be still my soul: the Lord is on thy side; — Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. Leave to they God to order and provide; in every change He faithful will remain. Be still my soul; Thy best, thy heavenly friend, through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.”
Relax and enjoy the journey. Entrust yourself to the wise and loving hand of God. Even suffering can work for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28).
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