All I could think was: What person is their right mind would rejoice in suffering, much less their own suffering?
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
Still, it seemed like such a great thought to me…that there was someone, out there, who was benefitting from their difficulties. It just wasn’t me. I hadn’t actually seen it happen either, not in person. My church didn’t have any great stories of people triumphing victoriously over difficulties…not that I knew of. When I was in high school, I looked around and it seemed to me that everyone was struggling. And not knowing when, or if, the happy ending would come, just sucked the oxygen right out of me. I was suffocating from lack of hope.
I lived scared of needing people and loving people. I wanted to be loved, but doubted that I was. I was looking at everything upside down. And I guess I stayed that way for years without even realizing it. And things got harder as I went along. We got married and had marriage troubles, money troubles, family troubles and health troubles. I think my life might have made a pretty good Country Music song. All this is to say that for as long as I could remember, my identity was bound up in this idea: I was helpless, wounded, and vulnerable. I was a victim.
I don’t know if me saying this makes sense to you, or if it annoys you, or if you feel sorry for any person that lived there for literally decades. But people are living this way all around you, every day, whether you know it or not. Yes, Christians too.
This head knowledge did not get real for me until I got to the end of me:
It was the trials that left nothing, no other choice, but to fall on my face before Him. So, at some point, I started reading the Bible like it held a great secret that could explain away the hurt and the disappointment. It does. I found it little by little. Like with the verse about trials and perseverance, we need to look at the two preceding verses:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).
My problem was I was living in the second part, the suffering, and forgetting about the first part, the peace with God. Being justified by our faith…this is where I found my peace. It means that the most important business in all of eternity has been conducted, and I have been found rescued, loved, redeemed, adopted. For too long I couldn’t shake my broken identity. This is so many of us: we hold on to the painful past, rather than walking in our new identity.
The Suffering isn’t going to be bearable until you are secure in your identity as The Lord’s Beloved; and it won’ t make sense until you are secure in His identity. He is: good (righteous and loving), wise, and powerful. Reading the Bible changed my assumptions about myself and about Him. I learned to:
- See trials as opportunities (for growth, to prove His character and mine, for ministry “appointments”)
- Remember Truth to fight doubt
- Keep an eternal perspective
- Acknowledge that I am under The BLESSING rather than under The Curse.
Finally! Here is that happy ending that I was always looking for; it is the part after the Suffering:
“…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 5:5).
I lived pretty joyless for a good while. And finally I learned that JOY is that enduring peace and quiet, persistent hope that rests softly, yet securely, in our hearts; it is the unshakeable knowledge of who I am in Christ and Who He is, always has been, and always will be.
Now, in my [ahem]…mid-forties, I can look backward and see the Memorial Stones all along my path…evidence of God’s steadfast love. Trials, yes, suffering too, with victory and found courage. Today I am thankful for the blessings of a praying, Bible-quoting momma; an honorable and faithful father; a generous and loyal sister; a committed and dedicated husband; and kids full of grace for their mom who, sometimes, is still mothering at the on-the-job-training level.
Photo Copyright Credits: mavrick / 123RF Stock Photo & philipus / 123RF Stock Photo