Joyful Suffering

In one of my recent morning quiet times I found my mind gravitating toward James’ words, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4) No sooner did those words come to mind when the words of Paul in Romans 8 started echoing in my ears. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God; to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow; He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (vv 28-29)

What immediately preceded these words coming to mind was an overwhelming sense of weariness and self pity. Fatigued by the trials I was experiencing in my life, I was feeling sorry for myself and asking God to fix things. These struggles have been going on for quite some time and I was wondering why God wasn’t doing something about it. In exasperation, I have been known to pour out my complaint to the Lord, “God, you can fix this, so why aren’t you?!”

As I considered the message of those verses in my mind - placed there, I believe, by the Lord Himself, it occurred to me that the Lord was trying to show me that “I” was the one who needed “fixing”. It wasn’t the circumstances, it wasn’t other people, it was “me” - God was wanting to fix me. By my response to the circumstances I was finding myself in, it was clear that I was not acting like my savior Jesus. It had become all to easy to play the part of the victim and fail to see how God was trying to show me an area of my life He wanted to bring into conformity with His Son.

I believe, just like those verses declare, that is what God wants to do in all the trials we face. When the trials come, I believe the Lord would have me say, “Thank you, Lord for this trial because I know that, by it, you intend to show me an area of deficiency in my character. Help me not to resist your working in my life, but to yield to it and be shaped more into the image of Jesus.” I’ve heard others say God is not so much interested in our happiness as He is in our holiness; I think I have to agree with that statement.

So, from this day forward, I want to be one of those who considers suffering to be joyful. Not that the suffering itself is joyful, but what God is producing in my life through the suffering is more precious than gold. I hope you will choose to join me.