But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed (1 Peter 3:14 NIV).
Peter wrote to encourage believers who were being persecuted, yet their only “crime” was following Jesus! Life’s not always fair, nor is suffering. It seems like an oxymoron to say the words "suffering" and "blessing" in the same breath, but those who’ve suffered and persevered understand. Adversity introduces us to ourselves, and we usually learn life’s most important lessons in the University of Pain. Let’s consider a few truths about suffering, some of which are quite beneficial.
1) It’s universal. We all experience suffering; some more than others. We can no more escape suffering than we can escape air, sunshine, or darkness. None are exempt. Both believers and unbelievers get cancer, die in accidents, experience rejection, abuse, job loss, handicaps, and addictions. Jesus didn’t promise Christians an inside track on a problem-free life. In fact, sometimes the “victorious Christian life” is just barely being able to hold our nose above the water.
2) We learn trust. Job said, Though the Lord slay me, yet I will trust Him. (Job 13:15) The deepest faith trusts God’s grace regardless of circumstances. It’s not the easiest faith; just the deepest. It’s the same faith that Jesus displayed on the Cross, trusting His Father in the midst of the pain. When our minds say, “Why?” our hearts say, “Trust.”
3) We experience love and community. Without suffering, there’s no need for compassion. Without pain, we wouldn’t receive the wonderful gift of having someone take our hand and say, “I’m here. I care.” Two are better off than one. If one of them falls down... the other can help him up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
4) It brings us closer to God. The very best lessons I’ve ever learned in life have been from experiencing pain or suffering. Frank Laubach wrote, “God cannot get close when everything is delightful. He seems to need these darker hours, these empty-hearted hours to mean the most to people.”(1) True indeed.
5) We learn to appreciate the absence of suffering. One doesn't learn how to appreciate abundance if he’s never experienced deprivation. We don't appreciate our health until we've known the dregs of sickness. Until we’ve experienced rejection, we don’t truly know how and why to extend unconditional love. There’s much to learn from our pain, and most of it is beneficial. Never waste your pain.
Are you hurting these days? I'm truly sorry. I don't like suffering, but I've learned to expect it, accept it, and learn from it. And though it's difficult to understand at times, I have Jesus to carry me along, and you do too. We're never too heavy for Him. Ever. I promise.
On a plaque in a hospital in New York, are these words, entitled “A Creed for Those Who’ve Suffered.”
I asked God for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I am, among all men, richly blessed.
My prayers were answered. (Author unknown)
(1) Letters By A Modern Mystic, Frank C. Laubach, Fleming H. Revell, 1937, p. 49.