Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Can Good Come out of Suffering?

My heart is heavy today with the knowledge that a friend of mine is mourning the loss of her husband. There are so many things we want to say to help provide comfort in times like this, but sometimes feel as if these words fall short - and, honestly, they usually do fall short. And often, what we say to provide comfort really isn't truth - or isn't full truth.

"It was God's plan"... "God wanted another angel"... things of this nature, are uttered from our lips to provide comfort. But this implies that God caused a person to get cancer. God stole someone from our lives out of selfishness. I have real issues with these phrases, even though I recognize the sentiment behind it.

But, beyond these attempts at comfort, we also attempt to rationalize the purpose of the suffering - why did her husband have to suffer with cancer? Why do now she and their children have to suffer from the loss of this man?

Numerous times, I have heard Romans 5:3-5 quoted as why we're made to suffer. People twist this phrase to mean that God intentionally causes our suffering, and allows us to suffer. But perhaps this isn't the full truth either.

 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
Suffering is, simply, part of this life. We will lose loved ones. We will suffer illness. We will go through hard times. This is not God's doing as a way to draw us closer to Him. This is not God's doing at all necessarily. Instead, it is what it means to be human.

However, what I believe these verses in Romans are doing, is helping us to recognize that even in our suffering, something good can come out of it.

Our suffering produces endurance, which produces character, which produces hope. But, this hope is not directed at our own suffering, but rather the suffering Christ endured for us. In our personal suffering, we have the Holy Spirit working within us to help us remember and experience the true love God has for us; and to help remind us and assure us that we can hope in that everlasting love, and we can hope in the triumphant victory over death which we've been given. Our suffering can help us trust in, and experience, the love God has for each of us.

May all our hardships and suffering, while not God-caused, help us recall the suffering Christ endured on our behalf; help us recall the reasons for this suffering Christ endured - because God so loved us, and continues to love us. May we all, with the help of our Lord, allow our suffering to bring us closer to God, hoping in Him and His love.

God bless.

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