Dangerous idea: the goodness of suffering

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Are you carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? Do you feel that your world is falling down beside you and that no one else understands? Fear not, it is possible to find hope in hard times.

Even Jesus who lived a perfect life did not escape suffering, in fact he wore the sins of the world while nailed to the cross. Often, we may think of our own suffering but fail to realise the suffering being experienced by others.

Personal growth is not just in terms of age or height, but also through maturity including as developed through experiences of suffering is a dangerous idea. The idea that in one's life, our pursuit is not necessary of comfort and stability is a very radical thought and counter to our every desire of pleasure.

The Bible as a countercultural text in its time of writing and with evermore relevance today encourages us to pursue completeness and maturity, not just relief from suffering.

James chapter 1 verses 2 to 4 urges us to "consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything".

Another dangerous idea is that there is joy and goodness in suffering. This may be an astounding statement and very difficult to comprehend as the future may appear bleak. Once again, we can not only be finding joy but be ecstatic that our circumstances are one which furthers opportunity for us grow in maturity. We find pure joy in our ability to be tested and to persevere.

For the followers of Jesus, we can actually delight joyfully in suffering with the assured knowledge that Christ has gone before us and experienced more than we are and can be experiencing right now. Not only is Jesus with you, but He has gone before you and by looking beyond our present circumstances we rest in the confidence of having been delivered from sin and with permanent access to the hope that God Himself has provided.

Hebrews chapter 12 verses 1 to 3 has a stark reminder of Jesus Christ as the comforter in all of our experiences in life's journeys being that "since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart".

Life will be tough, and it will be easy to look down upon yourself or look up enviously at those appearing at surface level to be more well off, but rather than living in lamentation or jealously, in setting our minds to God above, we find rest and a goal that nothing in this world can ever compare to. Having Jesus in our lives, we know the end will be good even if we cannot see beyond the hill ahead or don't feel you are fit enough to cross the raging waters.

Jesus has made a clear promise to all those who truly seek to follow Him that they will not be abandoned and will be comforted each day until He returns again. Our Christian lives are one of discipleship of being in Christ and also in making Christ known. Let us keep persevering and resting assured for Jesus' everlasting presence among us.

From the Old Testament to the New Testament, we see the presence of God at work and are encouraged to set our minds on the things above. Numbers chapter 23 verse 19 reminds us that "God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?", hence we should live a life in being alert and responsive to Jesus' return as the alleviation to our suffering. 1 Peter chapter 1 verse 13 inspires us to have "minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming".

Through regular training to run life's race not against suffering but among it in the presence of God's promises, we can deal with temptation and in the face of doubt continue to stand firm. Let not the pleasures or promises of indulgences draw us away from being equipped with God's sufficient grace that we can be praising Jesus Christ for victory over eternal death no matter our present circumstances.