My parents like to tell me the story of when I was a child and would offer to pray over a meal. I would start my prayer and begin to thank God for every single item present on the table and my prayer wouldn’t end until I had mentioned everything else that came to mind in the moment. One item I am sure was never a part of my mealtime gratitude is suffering. In fact, before the last year I am not sure that I had ever thanked God for allowing me to suffer.
And if I’m being honest, it isn’t easy to thank him for suffering while I’m going through it. It isn’t easy or natural to say thank you for feeling like your heart has been broken into pieces, like you’re too exhausted from all of the trying to keep going, and like the pain you’re in be it emotional or physical may never fully go away. It doesn’t feel good to go through any of the things we place into the category of suffering. Suffering hurts. It isn’t just some abstract concept or a mystical word that we only imagine. It’s real. It’s near. Sometimes it is all we can see for a moment that feels like forever. But today, right now, my heart cries out in prayer:
“Thank you Lord for this new day. Thank you for the way you love me. And thank you that your plan for me involves a great deal of suffering. Thank you that it isn’t easy. Thank you that it isn’t quick. It’s long lasting, heart wrenching, and exhausting work. But thank you for making me fight through this suffering. While I delight in knowing it is temporary, I do not ask it to be less present in my life knowing that because of it, I seek you. Thank you.”
God’s word speaks much on the suffering of his children, so we know that we are never alone in what we are going through. In fact, we are in some of the best of company on this long desert road through suffering. I for one can’t think of a single person in the Bible who was used mightily by God and who loved him deeply that didn’t go through some kind of suffering. And the best part is that our suffering is never without a purpose. After all, how would we ever grow into the joy of knowing him more and depending on him wholly without our times of suffering?
“Not only that, but 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
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” ~Philippians 1:6
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” ~Romans 8:28
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” ~1 Peter 1:6-9