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Monday, January 2, 2017

How to Suffer Well

Happy new year guys! I wish each and everyone a year of walking into deep waters of faith with God.
I decided to start off this year with this topic because I feel it'll be a great reminder as we start off a new year. We all hope and pray at the beginning of a new year for all the good things our minds can think of but hardly do we ever add pain to our list. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that we won't all, at some point, face challenges of varying intensity. Now, do we shun this reality or ask God for a deeper understanding when it comes to facing it? Let's dive in. 

Suffering Redefined

As humans, our first instinct is to avoid any and every circumstance that will cause us pain, both short and long term. However, as Christians, the reality for us is far from the ordinary, why? We are not of the world (John 17:14-16; John 15:19) and apart from the suffering that comes with being in a sinful world controlled by the evil one (1 John 5:18), we, as Christians, will be subjected to the kind of suffering that arises from our value systems always conflicting with the world’s (1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4)

While on earth, Christ was subjected to a life of suffering. One which he succumbed to for our sake that we may have victory over this sinful world (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because we are heirs of this inheritance, we are automatically subjected to this same fate (Romans 8:17). Therefore, suffering should not be something we avoid (although we may avoid suffering resulting from making poor decisions) but rather we learn to accept it as an opportunity to share in the suffering of Christ, whichever way that may look like. Although, this is not as easy as it sounds, we have the grace to depend on God for guidance on this.

So how do we learn to suffer well?
The first thing is to change our attitudes towards suffering. We can see examples of this from studying the lives of the apostles after Christ - Peter (1 Peter 3:14-19), James (James 1: 1-2), Paul (Romans 5:3-5). They saw suffering as an opportunity to die more to self and live a life of faith in the son of God (Galatians 2:20) Getting to this point of spiritual maturity requires extreme dependence on God's grace and providence. It is a continuous process that rarely ever reaches its peak while we are here on earth; a lesson is reinforced with every trial and tribulation we encounter to produce a harvest of righteousness (Hebrews 12: 11)

Finding Rest in Suffering
Pain isn't fun and most of the time, it's not fair either. It may be the loss of a job/family member, divorce, career stagnation, academic failure etc. Our trials may vary in intensity and even though we may not always be prepared for what's to come, we can learn to control our heart's disposition in every situation (Philippians 4:12) The psalmist in Psalm 23 opens us up to what this looks like:
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”- Psalm 23:4
This verse depicts a unique kind of valor and strength, not of the psalmist but of the one he writes of. The reality isn’t that “the valley of the shadow of death” isn’t scary enough for him. In fact, for all we know, it could be the scariest thing to be imagined- again, the loss of a job/family member, divorce, career stagnation, academic failure, etc. It’s a dark and scary shadow with many possible interpretations but the writer shifts his focus to an anchor. A stronger force capable of drowning out that fear and channeling it into absolute dependence. He finds comfort, not in the absence of chaos but in the presence of God.

Before Christ left the world, He gave us this abode of comfort to rest in:
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”- John 16:33
With confidence in this great promise, we begin to suffer differently. We fix our eyes on things above (Colossians 3:1-2), we draw strength from knowing that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:5) and we also take joy in knowing it is a privilege to suffer with Christ (Philippians 1:29)

As we begin a new year, let's teach our children that suffering is a part of our Christian walk, let's be godly examples to them in trying times and let us preach the importance of learning to suffer well in our churches. And let us keep these words of apostle Paul at the forefront when we face challenges of any kind and I pray we let God hold us through it all.
"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work."- 2 Corinthians 9:8

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