"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." James 1:2-3
As difficult and painful as it may be, one of the primary purposes of being shaken by suffering is to make our faith more unshakable. Faith is like muscle tissue: if you stress it to the limit, it gets stronger, not weaker. That’s what James means here. When your faith is threatened and tested and stretched to the breaking point, the result is greater capacity to endure. He calls it steadfastness [endurance].
God so values our wholehearted faith that He will, graciously, if necessary, use suffering to strengthen it. The apostle Paul understood sufferings purpose. He writes, "For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead" [2 Corinthians 1:8-9]. God used suffering in the apostle’s life so that Paul would not rely on himself and his resources, but on the LORD. He wants us to be able to say with the psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” [Psalm 73:25-26].
Apart from suffering, we simply cannot learn about God or relate to Him on an intimate level. Believing that God is real and present is one thing; trusting that He is enough, no matter what we face, is another thing entirely. Trials force us to move beyond superficial knowledge of Jesus into a meaningful, daily walk with Him. Suffering forces us to live what we really believe. Thus, the Lord beckons us into a deeper, more meaningful fellowship with Jesus through the doorway of hardship. In our weakness, we move from having a cognitive awareness of His strength to experiencing the personal peace it brings.
We seldom consider how our current struggles might prepare us for future service, yet God often equips us to serve others as a result of our most painful experiences. In 2 Corinthians 1:4, we learn that "God the Father comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." When we enjoy the supernatural comfort and peace that surpasses our understanding today, we become distributors of that same consolation to others tomorrow and every day.
Think about the Christians who inspire you the most. Chances are you watched them walk through a season of difficulty without wavering.
Suffering that strengthens has eternal meaning. It’s not just random and it isn’t unknown to God, nor unseen by Him. God loves His children more than we could possibly comprehend. "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" [2 Corinthians 4:17]. I love the apostle Paul’s eternal perspective here. “Our light, momentary affliction" is doing something. It’s not meaningless. Everything in our life must be put in the perspective of eternity. The affliction you face today is preparing you for future glory. Every day we are being made more like Jesus. God uses suffering that strengthens our faith and deepens our relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Don’t lose heart.
Much love and care,
Greece Assembly of God
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