Recently, I shared a special time of prayer with a friend of mine regarding upcoming surgeries each of us were about to encounter. During the prayer, she mentioned, "Lord, thank You for entrusting us with suffering." This phrase took me off guard as I've not quite considered suffering something one would be entrusted with. However, after more thought, I think I quite like this phrase and idea. Being entrusted with something, one is expected to care for it with excellence and charged with a specific duty pertaining to that something. So what then is our duty as Christians when we are entrusted with suffering and how will we handle it?
"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." ~ Romans 5:3-5
This passage instructs us to rejoice. Rejoice in suffering? What kind of seemingly twisted mindset is that? Keep reading. We rejoice because we know that we are being made more like Christ through the suffering that leads to a positive chain reaction: the first in the lineup is endurance. Endurance is the ability to keep going despite adverse circumstances. The pain and challenge is strong at first, but then the more we persevere, the more we are able to push through the struggle. It becomes easier and more tolerable. This knowledge of building up endurance doesn't necessarily decrease the pain of the suffering, but it adds worth to it as we are made to be more like Christ and character built up, which brings us to the next quality in the lineup: character. Paul uses the Greek word, dokime, in this context, which means "proven character"...similar to the way pottery is put into a kiln to be fired so it can harden properly and be proven to be strong for years of use. Through trial or "fire", we build this proven character and have confidence in knowing that we can be used as dependable vessels to carry out God's purpose for us. Hope. What a lovely word that every human soul craves. Without hope, life is "hevel"...meaningless. Hope is only good if the flame of hope does not diminish or extinguish. The problem with the things of this world is that the flame of hope is falsely lit and quickly snuffed. However, hope found and placed in Christ and His many promises is never put out. The hope we find in Christ will not put us to shame, because God's love is eternal and never fading. It can never leave us, and the joy and satisfaction it imparts to us demands to be spread to even more people!
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Through many of my personal trials, I have felt God's presence with me. It has been the only thing to cut through the pain and struggle and loss. I truly do not know how people function during life's challenges without Him. He has proven Himself over and over to me through others' prayers and texts or phone calls of encouragement, extra mile of kindness shown by healthcare staff, a small gift given by a loved one, or by providing guidance I knew only He could or through little reminders of His constant love. When I am deep in the valleys of darkness and difficulty, I want to be able to meet others in the valley and encourage them as we journey through the valley together. I want to share the comforts and promises God has shared consistently with me, the stories He has taught me, and show others the same love I have been shown during my trials. Who can you meet, journey alongside, and comfort in the valley with the same comforts God has shown you?
Trials we endure in life are hard and we do not generally ever take pleasure from them. I hurt, I cry, I am miserable, I wish for better times, and I would never wish my difficulties on anyone. Nevertheless, what I do take pleasure from are the life lessons I am taught by God and others that I cannot learn during any other time in life, the opportunities to connect with and comfort others who are enduring similar trials, and the ability to experience God's warming love as He draws me towards Himself in ways I can't experience outside of the valleys. For these reasons, I can choose to rejoice in trials and be grateful that I was entrusted with suffering. I know that the suffering is never meaningless, even if I do not see the meaning in it at the time. Curiously, I look upon each trial awaiting God's touch and teachings. What will your perception be when you are entrusted with suffering in life?