Philippians 1:29 – 30 “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.”
Paul had suffered for Christ, and he knew that other Christians would suffer as well. He wanted the readers of his letter to hold firm to their faith in the midst of hardship, just as he had. Paul counted it a privilege to endure persecution because of his belief in Christ. He knew that, although the suffering itself was not fun, it would bring beneficial results. Indeed, during those early days of discrimination and harassment, the more the Christians were persecuted for their faith, the more people seemed to rally ’round their cause! Instead of eliminating Christianity, the persecution actually helped Christianity to spread.
Just yesterday, I spoke with my dear friend about suffering. She was saddened by the illness of a loved one, and questioned, “Why do people need to suffer so? Why can’t God just stop the bad things in this world?”
You and I both know that God can put a stop to our suffering. But He doesn’t always choose to. He doesn’t cause the bad things in our lives, but He sometimes allows them, for He is more concerned with our souls than our circumstances.
I speak from experience: I have suffered. It was not fun. I would not have chosen to go through a decade of infertility. I would not have chosen to have a miscarriage at 14 weeks pregnancy. I would not have chosen to see my husband through an unknown, difficult illness. I would not have chosen many of the other circumstances in which my family and I have found ourselves.
But may I be honest with you? I am a better, stronger, wiser person because of those difficult things. God has taken me from weak to strong, from naiive to wise, from self-centered to God-centered. And though I still have many miles to travel before I become exactly who He created me to be, I am a lot closer to the mark now than I would be if I hadn’t been through the fire.
Just as an athlete must suffer if he wants to increase his strength and skill, we Christians must sometimes suffer if we want to grow in our faith. Are you suffering? If you are, I am so sorry. I truly am. But hold on, my friend! For if you have grit enough to endure the fire, the results will be beautiful!
Philippians 1:6 “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Dear Father, I don’t like to suffer. During the difficulties of my life, please help me to cling to You. And please use my circumstances to make me into the person You created me to be.