“There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.” – Philippians 1:29 (MSG)
You can’t write a blog for people with chronic illnesses without talking about suffering. For some, it’s an everyday thing. For others, like me, it’s every now and then. Most days, I hardly think about having rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Life is good, now that I have a good treatment plan, and I’m relatively pain-free. But it’s not difficult to remember a time when that wasn’t the case.
When my disease was in full-swing, there wasn’t a day that went by when I didn’t wake up hurting. I couldn’t figure out why I was so fatigued all the time (was I lazy?) and why my fingers were too swollen to remove my wedding ring (was I getting fat?). And why did my feet hurt every time I stood up? Filled with self-doubt and unanswered questions (was I just getting old?), my life was beginning to feel like a train wreck.
I was suffering … and my family, feeling a little abandoned and frustrated with my “excuses” for not being able to do more, was suffering right alongside me.
I’ll tell you the truth. I’m glad those days are over and I have no desire to revisit them. Suffering is no fun. For anyone.
You can imagine my surprise, then, when I opened my Bible the other day and ran across this verse: “And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.”
Clearly, Paul, the writer of Philippians must have been mistaken. How can anyone think of suffering as a gift? Surely, suffering is not God’s will for us, right? Wrong. Maybe suffering is our own fault, and it will go away as soon as we turn back to God. Nope. Oh, OK, then perhaps God only allows us to suffer temporarily, so He can then show His healing power. Well, sometimes yes, sometimes no.
The Bible says that suffering, not just the release from it, is a gift from God.
How in the world could this be true? I dug deeper. What I found was a God who cares deeply about our suffering (Exodus 3:7) and hears our cries for help. And while sometimes He does rescue us, He more often delivers us in our suffering and speaks to us in our affliction (Job 36:15).
His purpose for allowing suffering is not to harm us, but to draw us closer to Him.
In good times, we are often too busy for God. But when we are hurting, we turn to Him. We mature in our faith, take joy and comfort in His presence, and find strength through Him that we can then share with others. In the midst of pain, we find His peace.
Are you suffering today? Accept this gift. May you hear your Father’s voice of love and comfort, and experience His presence and peace. Cry out to Him. He is listening. What you are going through, He may allow, but He will never leave you.
An excerpt from The Gift of Suffering by Linda W. Perkins originally appeared on Purposeful Faith. Get even more encouragement on Spring Sight and by following me on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
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