Welcome: An Introduction

Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Joyful Suffering

"A silkworm was struggling out of the cocoon and an ignorant man saw it battling as if in pain, so he went and helped it to get free, but very soon after it fluttered and died. The other silkworms that struggled out without help suffered, but they came out into full life and beauty, with wings made strong for flight by their battle for fresh existence."
              ~ Sadhu Sundar Singh, 20th Century Indian missionary

Sometimes when we struggle in life it can be easy to get wrapped up in ourselves, our own suffering, pain, frustrations and lose sight of the plans God might have for us. God wants His children to be strong men and women of character, our lives living testimonies of His glory. To do this, He has to shapen us and mold us to be more like Jesus. This is oftentimes an uncomfortable and painful experience. But if we endure, great fruit is born, and blessings pour into our lives, including the beautiful peace only He can provide.

 I found this quote a beautiful  illustration of how suffering is sometimes necessary not only  in the natural world but also in our spiritual and physical realities, for it oftentimes is catalyst for growth as well as a way of bringing about glory to God. 

I thought I'd look up some scripture verses to in hopes of providing some encouragement and to give us some insight into why sometimes suffering is necessary. So here's what I found. If you have verses you'd like to add, please add them in the comments section, I'd love to hear them!

God lets us suffer so that we learn to lean not on our own understandings but to be obedient and trust fully in His commands and laws. This brings glory to Him and helps move us towards holiness:

Psalm 119:67: 67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
   but now I obey your word.

Psalm 119:71 71 It was good for me to be afflicted
   so that I might learn your decrees.

Hebrews 5: 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered

Hebrews 12:7   Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?

Hebrews 12:10-11  10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

So the Glory and Works of God are displayed. Oftentimes in our weaknesses and trials God's glory is revealed and we are made stronger:

Upon coming across a blind man, Jesus' disciples asked whether it was because of the man's sins or his parent's that he was afflicted. Jesus answered,3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:3)

2 Corinthians 12:10  10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

James 1:2-4  2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

1 Peter 1:6-7 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Jeremiah 29:11 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

To inspire others to proclaim their faith and the glory of God despite their sufferings:

Philippians 1:12-14
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[a] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[b] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

What should we do when we suffer? Christ was the true example of this:

1 Peter 2:21-24 1 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin,  and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[a]
 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

Heavenly Father,

Life is not always easy and sometimes the obstacles, trials and sufferings that are hurled at us threaten to take our focus off of You. Help us keep You soveriegn in every moment, seeking Your will and Your glory for our lives.

May we be instruments of peace and light and look through our sufferings and see You and may that produce in us great faith and hope and joy, that we are never forsaken. May we help those around us who  start to stumble, help us lift them up and share the hope that is in Christ.

May we enter into times of suffering with boldness and courage, knowing that we will endure and triumph for with God we have victory. Like the silkworm, let us struggle through our trials, through our painful dark nights and enter into the joy of a new morning, transformed in Your love, made new through Your Grace.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.


  1. In rightly dividing the old testament and the new testament I never attribute God for being the Author of trials and tribulations that are meant to destroy my peace, my joy or any area of my life. I rest assured in His deep love for me that He will take that which was meant for evil or harm and make it into an experience that will strengthen me and ultimately save me from it. If I can only fathom the Love God has for me...for us!

  2. Amazing post, sometimes things like this come to you at the right times in Life and you have to just go with it.

    Lets support the citizens of Egypt and pray for a peaceful transition of power. Check out my blog for the latest videos.

  3. Without suffering we would not know what joy or peace is. To grow a being has to go through the various stages of emotions to understand what is on the other side or what we have or can attain.

  4. Great post! I definitely think my hardest times were some of the best for me in terms of personal growth.

  5. This was a good post at a perfect time. Our family had always had more struggles than most but the last three yrs have been horrendous. When we see the light at the end of the tunnel we begin to breath a little easier only to find out the light was there to light a junction and we're not out yet. At times we've become weary in what we "suffer"... and we need a reminder that I've "never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed beggin' bread." Thank you!

  6. I love the analogy, and I love reading here, I do find it soothing and I really do but I see so much suffering in the world and I just wonder sometimes if there are greater forces at play. What about those that suffer too much? when they get to the point where they just cannot take another knock. I appreciate that the hard things we have to endure can make us stronger but for some the will to survive has gone, it's been beaten from them, it's been robbed through their naivety and innocence. As adults enduring and growing stronger through our pains and trials, I can understand but I just struggle when I see children suffer, when they don't always have the physical or the mental strength or even the experience of life to survive and on occasions when their little lives are robbed from them and this is when I really struggle with this.

  7. SJ, The constant theological conclusion essentially boils down to it is all Gods fault for the suffering in this world. But they do not and are blinded to the fact that Jesus said it was the thief,(devil) who comes to steal, kill and destroy, but He came to give us life and life abundantly. If God did everything He was blamed for then He would be worse than Hitler was! It all comes to understanding sovereignty of God ,Free will and the actions that put the world in the mess it is in in the garden. That is where man gave his dominion and rights to the earth to satan. If god was the author of suffering,then why would someone want relief from it, after all it is Gods will. But nowhere in the New Testament is it stated that we should accept defeat,suffering sickness poverty and lack of peace. That is why they call it the Gospel, The "Good News" It is an everlasting covenant with God. He loves us more than we will ever know in this world. So you are right when you say there is something more to it , greater Forces indeed, but soon to be defeated!

  8. Here’s three more:
    And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. Romans 8:17

    If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: Timothy 2:12

    That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death… Philippians 3:10

    Love your picture illustrations Jessica. Like a child, they help me remember these valuable lessons.

  9. Amen Ed...that's a great way of putting it...and I agree God's love is amazing and something that can't even be truly grasped as it is infinite and eternal. His love inspires me to love more :)
    Thanks for the comment :)

  10. Jhess...thank you for the reminder for us all to pray for those in Egypt. It's a sober reminder that though many of us go about living out our ordinary lives day in and day out there are people who are living in turmoil and uncertainty. My prayers will be lifted up for them this morning and I look forward to visiting your blog and checking out your post :)

  11. Yoga...so true...some great thoughts. I agree :) Often we know things through our experiences of their conrasts. Thanks for your comments...I always enjoy their depth :)

    Rachel...so true.I was reflecting on that while I was writing this post...how my family and I have been through some trials over the last couple of years and though I'd love to have prevented them, our painful trials really gave way to a clearer perspective and growth for us as a family unit and individually.

    Rachel...oh I can so relate, though I know our trials that we've had and are having are most likely different...I know how it is to go through stretches of time where it's just total suffering, then hope arises and is shattered. I'm so glad that this post was able to offer a little reassurance and encouragement...a reminder of God's faithfulness and everlasting love.
    I will pray that your trials are lifted from you and you walk in the light and peace of God, restored, refreshed, renewed and stronger than you were when your trials first began. ~ blessings

  12. Oops..I'm sorry...the last post was directed towards Patricia! I apologize!

  13. Sarah...you bring up questions that I think many, if not all of us, have asked at some point, or maybe are still asking now. Thanks :) Those are important ones!

    Ed, you're awesome, your answer explained things better than I could! I'd just say that though there are some beautiful facets and displays of humanity-that humanity itself is diseased and that the darkness that is woven into humanity is what causes the suffering, the evil, the pain in this world, not God. When you see a child suffer from abuse, it's not God who is the abuser, it is the person who is abusing the child. God is grieiving at the child's pain, but at the same time He gave us free will. If he hadn't, we'd all essentially be puppets. So to have free will exist, there's going to be undoubtedly things that are going to happen in this world that displeases and saddens, even angers God. But God will have his day where those who abuse others will have to face the sins they have committed.

    Our response to God, to accept Him, to follow his commands and live in the freedom of His grace, can make life a bit easier (for to follow His commands often means we will avoid some of the snares and traps of life that causes pain and suffering, but not all, for in our sin, we are bound to fail at times), but even following God doesn't keep us from suffering. In fact, the NT assures us that we will suffer! For we are trying to live out God's life for us, not the world's and oftentimes that will cause us to come into some kind of conflict of one kind or another.

    Suffering is not a small topic! There are books written about it, expressing different perspectives. I remember reading a book by JI Packer that really helped me understand and come to terms with some of the questions you are asking. I think it was, The Holiness of God, but I'm not certain.

    Asking questions is good...so many don't. Thank you for presenting them here and making us all think :)
    ~ blessings

  14. Debra, thank you so much for the additional verses! They proved a blessing this morning as I read them :)
    ~blessings and love

  15. Thank you, Jessica. I was delighted to see the quote by Sadhu Sundar Singh, who is one of my favorites. I might join Debra in adding another, very practical (some would say selfish) reason for our sufferings as Christians: : "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12). And yet, if this is a promise God has given us, should we call it a selfish incentive? Possibly not!

    The verse makes perfect sense, even on a human level. It is not the untested recruit who is promoted to a position of command, or responsibility. It is the veteran, scarred and perhaps maimed, who has the necessary perspective for making proper decisions. And, of course, it is only by suffering that we are brought into conformity to Christ's Image.