Trials, suffering, and pain seem to be a constant companion lately. Suffering is inevitable. All you have to do is wake up each morning and you will undeniably see/feel it. But some seasons of life seem to bring more suffering than others. What do we do with suffering?
I remember when I first became a christian I was drawn to James 1:2-4. "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing." I remember reading this scripture for the first time and being taken aback. We should embrace trials and find joy in them? This seemed contrary to my nature and the nature of man in general. However I have come back to this scripture time and time again, letting it renew my mind and transform my flesh. Despite memorizing this scripture, I recently realized that the pain I have suffered over the last several years has created a deeper fear. Fear of the next painful blow that life would bring. Scared of the next difficult trial that would happen. It was starring me in the face and I couldn't even see it. All the while God is trying to teach me how to embrace it to grow. Trials were creating more fear when they were suppose to be establishing steadfastness and joy. Then in the midst of my angst, God showed me John 15 in a new light, revealing the joy of suffering. The importance of abiding (accepting) in Jesus. The result that when we abide in the branch He will prune the branches that are not needed (thank goodness, who wants those nasty branches that wreak of self?), and then grow fruit for His glory (vs. 8), which will then bring joy. Pain is refining me into something greater. Something that can not be destroyed, that man can not take away. This is where joy resides, this is the gift of suffering.