“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”
Have you ever suffered? Though a serious question to ask someone, I believe, most people would answer yes. During my almost 60 years of living, I have suffered in a variety of ways. I’m fairly sure that is true of anyone who reaches my age. It would be quite remarkable to reach our golden years without ever having suffered at all. Life is fraught with all manner of pain, sorrow, grief, loss, and illness. It is a rare person, indeed who has lived his whole life without suffering. During my personal seasons of difficulty, it was a temptation to take offense or become angry with God. Someone in pain will sometimes seek to blame God for their misfortune. While this is understandable, God is not the culprit and does not deserve our resentment.
1 Peter 4:12-13
“ Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
Those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of the living God may initially think His followers should be spared the worst of life's tragedies. However, the presence of hardship is necessary in our spiritual growth. Because we are heirs with Christ in eternal life, we are also heirs in His suffering. Does it make sense that God the Father, who allowed His beloved son to die an ugly, horrifying death on the cross, would spare his adopted sons and daughters similar suffering? No. It doesn't. There will be humiliation, illness, heartbreak, and physical death before Christ comes again. Are we better than Jesus, that we should be protected when he was not? No! We are not. We are merely human as Christ became for our sakes. We are equal heirs and therefore share in His inheritance. Because we are equal we also share in the hardships, trials, and tribulations that He suffered. Though this is hard to accept, we must welcome the earthly strife as the great gift it is. With our suffering comes the evidence that as heirs with Jesus, we are promised the gift of eternal life with Him.
In the books of the New Testament, the writers warned us time and again that suffering is something we should not only anticipate, but that we should rejoice when it comes. The first disciples knew from Jesus Himself that all His followers will partake not just in his resurrection, but in his death as well.
Throughout our lives, after we have chosen to serve God, He will actively mold, shape, and chisel away rough edges. He will painfully conform us to the image of Christ. This may seem unfair or frightening, but imagine it! Becoming the image of the only perfect man who ever lived! The image of Jesus, the beloved Son of God! What a joy! What a wonderful promise! Yes, there will be pain and sorrow, but what a reward awaits us someday for our faithfulness! We can rejoice and rest in the knowledge that someday our patience, perseverance, and service to God will be answered with life eternal. In the above scripture James 1:2-4, we see that suffering, though difficult at the time, is actually a precious gift. It changes us into what we could never be without God’s transformative power: the image of our savior. Romans 8:2 “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son.”
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the difficulties you send into my life. Though I may complain or cry during the hard places, I believe deeply that each trial you allow is for my ultimate good. I am unable to see the plan the way you do, but I trust you with my life, my soul, and my future. I am in your hands. Please shape me to be pleasing to you.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Karen Butler Ogle