Sunday, June 22, 2014

Rejoicing in Suffering

A Personal Story

I was reading this book in a coffee shop, when a woman entered the cafe and slowed to a stop as she passed my table. She said she had noticed the title of the book. As we talked, she revealed that she was grappling with personal suffering at that very moment. In fact, her suffering was driving her away from God. 

She had tried reading books about suffering… but they all seemed to read like textbooks.

And so I recommended this book.

Far from being theoretical and abstract, Paul Mallard’s Invest Your Suffering is deeply personal. His life is woven into the pages. And so, he is able to speak authoritatively about suffering.

When we suffer, we can rejoice because God is working out his good purposes. This is hard to hear. It’s almost impossible to hear from someone who isn’t qualified! But Mallard has earned the authority to administer this hard truth.

In chapters seven, eight and nine, he offers three reasons to rejoice in suffering.

Being Like Jesus

Often when we suffer, we consider it proof of God’s ‘parental neglect’. 

The Bible takes the opposite view! According to Hebrews 12, we suffer because God is a good Father.

It is God’s good purpose to transform us. Just as Jesus perfectly displayed God’s character, God wants us to do the same. He wants us to be like Jesus.

God often uses suffering to achieve this. In the fiery furnace of suffering, God refines our character so that we will resemble his precious Son. We can rejoice in suffering because we are being made like Jesus.

Blessings in Christ

Though it is appropriate to mourn our suffering, Christians are commanded to rejoice. This isn’t easy, and Mallard knows this better than most. But we can choose to call to mind God’s goodness, and we can choose to dwell upon his blessings.

Even in suffering, Christians can rejoice. God has forgiven our sin, redeemed us from his wrath, shown us love and compassion, given us a relationship with him, and promised us resurrection! 

Call these things to mind. Dwell on these things. We have so many reasons to rejoice, even when we are suffering.

Learning to Trust God

Sometimes when we suffer, we can’t see God’s plans because we’re smack bang in the middle of them. This is exactly where he wants us – when we can’t see the way, we learn to trust him!

When we trust God, we are in good hands. We can trust God because he sent his only Son as a sacrifice for our sin.

We can also trust God because we know the big picture. In Mallard’s words, “Jesus is victorious - the future history of the world has already been written.” This is no meagre comfort! We know that God will put all things under Christ. We know that God will present us holy and blameless before Him.

When we suffer, we can rejoice! It teaches us to trust our trustworthy God.

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