3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Suffering

At first, this may seem like an odd pursuit—getting the most out of suffering. Usually, our first response is to extract ourselves from suffering. That response is normal.

But what if we can’t remove ourselves from our suffering—or at least not right away? What do we do then? We have a choice either to waste our suffering or make the most of it.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

James reveals a simple truth about trials and suffering—they are always a test of our faith. How we react to suffering and what we allow it to work in our lives reveals the genuineness of our faith in God. We’ve trusted him when all is going well. Will we trust him now that all seems lost?

Typically, in the middle of difficult trials, at least two soul-rending questions surface:

  • Is God bigger than our trial?
  • Why is he allowing this to happen to me? In other words, can I trust God’s care for me in spite of this trial?

Here are 3 ways to get the most out of suffering

  1. Continue to deliberately trust God through your trial or suffering. Go back to what you know. You know that God is all powerful. You know that God loves you unconditionally—so intensely that he gave his Son Jesus to die for you. You’re his child. Trust him and take joy in that fact. Express your joy openly in praise and thanksgiving to him. (1 Peter 1:3-9)
  2. Persevere through your suffering, allowing it to make you more Christlike. Never give up! As meaningless as your trial seems right now, believe that God doesn’t squander anything on us. He’s using this trial to help us: see him more clearly, focus on what’s really important, and make us more holy. (Hebrews 12:7-13)
  3. Continue to love and serve others. When we’re in the middle of suffering, it’s easy to become self-focused. Resist that temptation. Instead, focus on others. The glory of Christ will shine more brightly through us in trials than when all is going well. (1 Peter 4:12-19)

When we do those things, our suffering produces:

  • Deeper faith and maturity in us
  • Praise and glory to Christ
  • Clear evidence to others of God’s love and power

Suffering and trials are tough enough already. Let’s not waste them and add to our suffering!

©2015 Rob Fischer

 

Able and Willing!

We use the idiom “Able and willing!” to express our capacity and readiness to serve others. We could be able, yet unwilling to help others. Or, we could be willing, yet unable to follow through with what we wish we could do. No, both the ability and the willingness must be present.

But the writer of Hebrews challenges us on this issue from an entirely different perspective. In fact, Hebrews 11:6 defines faith as the assurance that God is both able and willing. “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV)

This faith that God is both able and willing is vital! If we come to Him with a request and believe that He is potentially able, but we doubt that He’s willing to help us, what does that say about our understanding of who God is? And what does this reveal about our relationship with Him? It would be just as bad to think that He is willing, yet unable to meet our needs.

“Anyone who comes to [God] must believe that He exists.” This statement does not merely refer to belief that there is a God. The writer is talking about the belief or conviction that God exists in all His fullness, power, and presence. God is the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

Therefore, God is able! This has to do with His very nature. Nothing is out of the realm of possibility for Him. He is all-powerful, all-present, all-knowing, all-wise. Jesus said, “With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NIV)

Granted, God is able, but is He willing? He can help me, but does He want to? Here’s where many of us struggle. Hebrews 11:6 also applies this factor as integral to our faith. We must believe not only that He exists, we must trust “that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” God’s willingness to help us has to do with His character.

We stumble falsely in this aspect of faith. We falsely assume that God isn’t pleased with us—that we are unworthy of His pleasure. But earlier in Hebrews we find a remarkable passage, “Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.” (Hebrews 2:11) He is not ashamed of you, He loves you! If you have come to Jesus Christ for salvation, you are His child.

“He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NIV) Therefore, God’s character is at stake here.

Our faith does not hinge on us, but on God who is willing and able. We falsely assume that we must muster great faith in order to move God. That’s backwards. All we need is a tiny seed of faith in our Great God. Such faith pleases Him. He says so.

Come to God believing that He is able and trusting that He is willing.

©2013 Rob Fischer

A Parable of Two Men

For 40 years God led Israel through the barren wilderness of the Middle East. In spite of their repeated grumblings and rebellion, God continued to love, lead and provide for his people. Even when they were unfaithful to him, he remained faithful to them. In all those years, God sustained this massive company of people by miraculously providing them with manna. Manna was a food substance that God caused to appear on the ground each morning. The people of Israel gathered manna as their staple food through all those 40 years.

In year 39 of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness two men woke up one morning. One man got up, put on his outer garment and lifted the flap over the door of his tent to step out into the desert morning. As he ducked under the tent flap it dumped a load of sand down his neck. He cursed under his breath and angrily shook out his clothes muttering, “I am sick and tired of this infernal sand! I’ve got sand in my bed, sand in my hair, sand in my food! Everywhere there’s sand! I hate this life of constant moving and upheaval. And guess what’s for breakfast? Manna—again!”

This man’s mood was no private matter, but spread unmercifully like cancer to his wife and children. With his incessant bitterness, anger and complaints he poisoned the minds and attitudes of his family and friends. His poison took its toll on his relationships replacing intimacy with isolation, trust with suspicion and love with self-centeredness. This man truly lived out the miserable life he envisioned for himself. By making much of himself and his circumstances, he lived as though God were puny and others insignificant.

Across the vast camp of the Israelites that same morning another man awoke. This man’s circumstances were in no wise different than the first man. But as this man stepped out of his tent that morning shaking the sand from his clothes, he stood up and filled his lungs with the fresh, cool desert air. He looked to the east watching the glory of the sun as it began to dispel the night. He thought to himself that the sunrise was but a tiny reflection of the magnificent glory of its Creator.

He expectantly looked out over the hillsides around their camp and saw the familiar blanket of manna in the receding shadows. Suddenly he was overwhelmed with a sense of God’s presence, faithfulness and love for him and his family. Without inhibition he raised his hands and looked up into the sky and worshipped out loud, “Thank you, my God, my King, my Shepherd! Thank you for another “manna-day”, a day in which you show yourself faithful and loving toward me and your people. Thank you for providing for us, O gracious Lord!”

This man’s mood was no private matter either, but spread to others like the warmth of the rising sun. His humble gratitude made him a delight to be around! His family and friends found his faith and joy contagious, so that they too gave God glory. By making much of God, he saw more of God and his greatness and love. And by experiencing God’s love, he could not help but love others around him on whom God had also poured out his love.

Which man are you?

©2009 Rob Fischer