by Randy Alcorn on EPM Ministries site:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:1–5
God tells us that suffering isn’t pointless. We are to rejoice in our sufferings because of the outcomes they will produce: perseverance, character, hope, and the certain expectation that God will make all things right and work all things for our good and his glory.
Some of the most meaningful victories in our lives come in the context of our most difficult, seemingly useless suffering.
Howard Hendricks tells of visiting a leprosy center in India. The morning he arrived, the residents were gathered for a praise service. One of the women with leprosy hobbled to the platform. Hendricks said that even though she was partially blind and badly disfigured, she was one of the most beautiful women he’d ever seen.
Raising both of her nearly fingerless hands toward Heaven, she said in a clear voice, “I want to praise God that I am a leper because it was through my leprosy that I came to know Jesus Christ as my Savior. And I would rather be a leper who knows Christ than be completely whole and a stranger to His grace.”
Seeing God’s hand in our adversities comes in many different forms.
After serving in a ministry for fifteen years, a brother I know, named Dan, endured a ten-year spiritual drought. He told me, “I felt like God just wasn’t there. My spiritual life became pointless.”
Finally, Dan determined to draw near to God, hoping God would keep his promise to draw near to him (see James 4:8). Ten Saturdays in a row he took a chair into the woods and sat for hours at a time. He vowed he would keep coming until “God showed up.” He brought pen and paper to write reflections. For the first nine weeks he sensed no contact with God and so had little to write.
On the tenth Saturday, suddenly Dan started writing. He felt God’s presence like a gentle wave, for the first time in ten years. Beginning that day, his life changed. He told me, “As miserable as those years were, I would not trade it for anything, because God showed me that my earlier fifteen years of Christian life and ministry had really been about me, not him. I had lived on my terms, not his. At last I was seeing God.”
Dan said, “After it was all over, I thanked God for those ten years.” Yet during that dark time, Dan said he couldn’t have imagined ever being grateful for it.
Since detailed past, present, and future knowledge is unavailable to us, we sometimes see negative circumstances as random and pointless. We do not see that God has and will accomplish good purposes through them. Who but God is wise enough to know…or powerful enough to make it happen?
Lord, your Word promises that we will forever benefit from character building that makes us more Christlike. You also reveal to us that suffering is a primary instrument you use to bring this about. While it seems counterintuitive to rejoice in our sufferings, you tell us to do so. Give us the ability to trust that what you’ve told us is true and that you know best, thereby revealing the light of joy in the midst of our darkness.
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