I have spent a lot of time recently reflecting on suffering. It happens to all of us; life doesn’t always go the way we want it to. But as followers of Christ, we are told to expect suffering in this life time.
12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Sometimes when we experience trials and suffering it can feel like we are wandering aimlessly. It feels like we aren’t equipped with what we need. It can feel like we are in a desert and there is no help in sight. Suffering can make the world seem insignificant, but I believe that our suffering is very significant and that it doesn’t go unnoticed by our God.
One thing I am certain of is that Christ pursues us when we are in this desert. When we are at the end of our rope, pulling out our hair in frustration, and ready to punch a wall, we have nothing to distract us. There is no success that we can hide behind, there is no substance that we can obtain to comfort ourselves, and there is no amount of self righteousness to make us feel secure. Essentially, there is no false comfort we can use to avoid the issue. In the desert, the idols of our heart, the things we make more important than our God, are proved to be empty. Only the real thing, only Jesus, can fill that hole. When we are at the end of ourselves we see our great need. It is then that we see that we need a savior.
Take comfort, beloved! The bible is full of promises for our future. One that I cling to, and that has grown me a lot, is in Romans:
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
This promise does not mean that we will always get things our way in the end, and it does not mean that God will always do what we want. It is a promise that he will give us something better. This promise means that he will provide us what we need in tough situations; it means that these tough situations have an end goal, although it doesn’t always feel that way. Ultimately this promise means that he will always freely give us himself, which is our ultimate good, and that we have nothing to fear. Who could need anything more than a loving relationship with the creator of the world? It’s a challenging question to ask yourself.
I recently read a book by a great man and follower of Christ that has been a constant encouragement to me in times of struggle. Faith in Future Grace, by John Piper, has changed the way I view the world and how I look at the tough times God sometimes calls us to. His book looks at many promises God gives us about our future in relationship with Him, and unpacks them for us to understand how to rightly view God and the world. I would strongly recommend reading it if faith, especially in hard times, is something that you struggle with.