who called you to His eternal glory in Christ,
after you have suffered a little while,
will Himself restore you
and make you strong, firm and steadfast."
1 Pet 5:10
Why is that? Why "after you have suffered a little while"? The question of why God allows suffering is a weighty theological issue to which I do not attempt to have a simple answer beyond that it is pain that causes our hearts and wills to bend toward Christlikeness. But, I think it is important to dwell upon this subject, to ask God about it, to study Scripture and find out what the Word says about pain.
And, actually, it says a lot.
(Just look up "Suffering" in your concordance and this is what you get... Job 36:15, Ps 22:24, Isa 53:3&11, Lam 1:12, Mk 8:31, Lk 24:26&46,Ac 5:41, Ro 5:3, 2 Co 1:6, Php 1:29, 2 Tim 1:8, Heb 2:9-10& 18, Heb 9:26, Heb 13:3, 1 Pet 2:21, 1 Pet 3:17, 1 Pet 4:1,12&16, 1 Pet 5:9)
If you want a current snapshot of beauty through suffering, read Brent and Tish, who are both walking through very challenging trials resting in Jesus with assurance and grace.
I've had this post on pain brewing for a while, since so many of our dear friends are enduring a season of tremendous suffering. Then the Tea Fire tore through our beloved Westmont College and Montecito, and the LA County and Orange County fires consumed so many homes and lives in our own neck of the woods... Then Poppy preached on it Sunday. (It was awesome. You can get it at VineyardNewport.org.)
What came to mind was the many people I've watched over the years who went through fiery trials of their own and chose stalwart righteousness... and those that didn't.
Michael has been in contact with a dear old friend who has dived completely into sin, bordering on senility it seems, which started when he went through several years of serious pain. One of our long-time mentors and precious friends completely ditched his faith, his wife and his family in a colossally damaging way after going through a couple of years of intense pressure and trial. They failed the test! After so many years of serving Christ... they threw their hands up and just walked away.
(Just so you know, I've certainly been there myself. Failed, I mean. Every single item on my "List of Foolish Behavior & Decisions that I Can Never Take Back and that Relentlessly Haunt Me" - even though I know that Christ has forgiven me - I did during a season of trial, pain, grief, and exhaustion. So, my heart breaks for those who have done equally poorly.)
On the other hand we have many truly beautiful examples in our lives... On Sunday we prayed with a sweet friend who's enduring the nightmare of "amicable divorce" when all he wants is his wife back, and yet he's choosing to be a shining example of Christlikeness. The Alexanders,who recently discovered that their beautiful boy Abe has cerebral palsy. Tish, who lost her mom to cancer last week. The Riggs,whose precious little Abby is fighting leukemia. Our friend S, who discovered that her beloved husband of 24 years has been having affair after affair. The Ramoses, whose infant daughter Darcy Anne died in October from Trisomy 18.
PAIN! Pain shows us what we're really made of. It matures us, softens us, refines us as through fire. It tosses us to our knees before Jesus.
But, it can just as easily make us determined to turn our lives upside down and inside out just to not feel it anymore. It can invite us to make poor choices that we may regret forever. It can seduce us into becoming embittered at God, at our spouse, at friends, at the world.
in order to discover the completion of joy."
So, we have to choose what to do with suffering. We have to look square in the face of our worst torment and say, "I will HOLD FAST! You cannot make me wander from the path ever nearer to my Savior, Jesus Christ!" Oh, that makes me cry just to write it down, much less to say it out loud.
HOLD FAST! Do not be afraid! Resist temptation! Dig into the Bible! Do NOT give up!
When your spouse strays toward a younger, prettier model - hold fast! When you lose your job - hold fast! When your friends or family reject you - hold fast! When you have a miscarriage after trying to have a baby for so long - hold fast! Or, when your adoption gets delayed and delayed - hold fast! When your health fails - hold fast! When you lose your home to fire or the financial bottom dropping out - hold fast! When someone you love dies - hold fast! When life goes pear-shaped - hold fast! When your heart gets broken and you feel like you can't even get out of bed much less face the day - hold fast!