Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful for Suffering?

As Thanksgiving Day nears, do you think it is possible to put your current trial on your list of things you are thankful for?  It's very difficult to be thankful for something that brings us great pain and hardship, but I think the Bible tells us we can and should be thankful for suffering.
"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:6-7
 "More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."  Romans 5:3-5
Websters defines "rejoice" as having great joy, delight, or gladness. When have you ever been delighted in something and not been thankful for it!? In fact we should not only be thankful for our suffering, but also take delight in it? That sounds crazy! How can we find joy in something that causes us such misery?

Charles Spurgeon, British Baptist preacher of the 1800's known as the "Prince of Preachers",  in his sermon "A Joy in All Trials", says,
There is an invaluable blessing which is gained by the trial of our faith. The blessing gained is this, that our faith is tried and proved... After a great fight of affliction, when I come forth a conqueror, I know that I do believe in God, and I know that this faith makes me a partaker of covenant blessings; from this I may fairly argue that my faith is of the right kind.
I reckon that the endurance of every imaginable suffering and trial would be a small price to pay for a settled assurance, which would forever prevent the possibility of doubt.... Trials are like a fire; they burn up nothing in us but the dross, and they make the gold all the purer. Put down the testing process as a clear gain, and instead of being sorry about it, count it all joy [James 1:2] when ye fall into divers trials, for this bestows upon you a proof of your faith.
This a much different message than we often hear today--that God wants you happy, healthy, and wealthy. The Bible tells us that suffering and trials will come and when they do we must rejoice in them. The main reason we can rejoice or be thankful for the suffering is because it proves and strengthens our faith in God. Isn't that what we should desire most of all...that our faith be strong and unwavering even among life's most difficult trials?

Spurgeon knew suffering. He suffered from gout (first attack at the age of 35), rheumatism (present day rheumatoid arthritis) and Bright's disease (inflammation of the kidneys). His wife dealt with some unknown physical ailment, could not have any more children after their twin sons were born, and became an invalid at the age of 33. When Spurgeon was 22 he preached in a large hall where over 10,000 people were present. Someone yelled "fire" and there was a stampede that killed 7 people and many more were injured.  He suffered from depression and the daily struggles of being a pastor, husband, and father. (source). This was a man who experienced great suffering yet he believed that trials are an invaluable blessing for our faith!

Oh that we might believe with Spurgeon that "every imaginable suffering and trial would be a small price to pay for a settled assurance [that our faith is genuine]" and be thankful for suffering that is refining our character and proving a faith that will result in praise and glory of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this gave me more understanding of the afflictions and trials we may have to go through life and the hope in the promises of God for those who love him. Romans 8:28. God bless you and keep you.