Lessons from Suffering Part III
"Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."3
Third. To turn our crises into opportunities, we need to face causes. If there is one thing in life that I have learned, it is this: the problem we see is not necessarily the problem that is.
For instance, what we blame many of our problems on—especially personal ones—very often is not the real cause. What we see are mostly symptoms, and as counselor John Townsend says, symptoms very often are "the fruit of a deeper root." For instance, my criticism of someone else may be caused more by my jealousy or negative attitude rather than by what that person did. My hurt feelings or anger at another person may be a reflection of my insecurity or my unresolved hostility. I may unconsciously be looking for a peg to hang my anger on; that is, an excuse to blame somebody else for my unresolved problems.
Only as we become courageously honest with ourselves and face the actual causes of our difficulties can we begin to resolve them. Jesus Christ expressed a universal principle when he said, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you at liberty."4
Fourth. To turn our crises into opportunities, we need to ask the question, "What might God be trying to say to me, or to teach me, through my adverse circumstances?" There is almost always some valuable lesson to be learned.
Remember, because he was in prison John Bunyan wrote his literary masterpiece, Pilgrim's Progress. And through rising above her severe handicaps, blind Helen Keller became a great inspiration to millions.
And so it is with each of us. No matter what happens to us, God wants to use our suffering to strengthen us, to mature us, and to make us better persons.
If you are going through a time of sickness, sorrow, depression, financial setback, a broken relationship, or feel you have failed in some way, can you accept that God wants to use your suffering to help you grow and become closer to him? Can you ask him to help you see what you might be contributing to your situation, for the courage to do your part in resolving it, and through it help you to grow?
After a long winter, spring eventually comes and with it new leaves appear on the trees in all their refreshing beauty. In the summer they thrive. In the fall they die. But in dying their beauty is greater than in the spring. But the tree doesn't die. The falling leaves just make further growth possible. And that's the cycle of life—struggle, pain, beauty, growth.
Apparently, in his later years, Renoir, the famous French painter, suffered badly from arthritis. On one occasion his close friend, Matisse, questioned him, "My friend, why do you keep on painting when you are in so much pain?" To which Renoir thoughtfully replied, "The pain passes, but the beauty remains!"
For all who trust their life to God and ask him to use their struggles to help them grow, their pain, too, will pass, but their beauty will remain—forever. As God's Word, the Bible, says, "Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall."5
Be sure to invest your pain. Don't waste it. Invest it wisely in your own growth and in the growth of others. As God's Word also says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."6
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, in all of life's painful circumstances, please face me with the truth of anything that I may be contributing in any way to cause or worsen my situation. Help me also to accept my problems as allowed by you so that I will learn from and, in so doing, become a more mature, loving and helpful Christian. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name. Amen."
3. James 1:2-4 (TLB)(NLT).
4. John 8:32 (NIV).
5. Psalm 55:22 (NIV).
6. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV).