Why do Christians suffer?
Saturday, July 13, 2013
What do we know about suffering?
James 1:1 tells us to "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Notice that he does not say, ”if” you face trials; he says “whenever” you face them because they are coming. That does not sound encouraging, but it is realistic. God uses suffering in our lives to build our faith.
After my fall and the major downward spiral of my MS, my neurologist sent me to a counselor. He looked at me like I had three heads, and all of them green, when I said, "I know that God is in control. I know there is a reason for my MS, my depression, and my disability." I remember sitting in my wheelchair in my kitchen crying, praying that I'd overcome my depression. Then, it hit me....I was going through this so that I could help others. I prayed that if God would just bring me out of that terrible pit, that I would try my best to help others who suffered from depression. So, I did quite a bit of research on the topic and was surprised that I really didn't find that much written from a Christian perspective. I wanted to find out what the bible had to say about depression, life's struggles.
I really focused in the book of James. James 1:2-3 says, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." NIV
Notice that he does not say, ”if” you face trials; he says “whenever” you face them because they are coming. That does not sound encouraging, but it is realistic. Trials happen, and they happen regularly. God uses suffering in our lives to build our faith.
James not only mentions trials, he mentions trials of many kinds. From the Greek word for “many,” we get the English word "polka-dotted." That is, life is "dotted"with trials. They are everywhere from little irritations to great tragedies. The strange thing, however, is the fact that James tells us that we should “consider it pure joy” when we face trials. James is not saying, "feel joyful" because that would be impossible. If you felt joyful when bad things happened to you, there would probably be something wrong with your mind. But, you can be joyful because you know God is in control and that he has good in mind for you.
I found a neat story (author unknown) that I' like to share:
A man found a cocoon of an emperor moth. He took it home so that he could watch the moth come out of the cocoon. On the day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the moth for several hours as the moth struggled to force the body through that little hole.
The moth seemed to be stuck and appeared to have stopped making progress. It seemed as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no farther. The man, in his kindness, decided to help the moth; so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The moth then emerged easily. But its body was swollen and small, its wings wrinkled and shriveled.
The man continued to watch the moth because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened! In fact, the little moth spent the rest of its life crawling around with a small, swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.
The man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand that the struggle required for the moth to get through the tiny opening was necessary to force fluid from the body of the moth into its wings so that it would be ready for flight upon achieving its freedom from the cocoon. Freedom and flight would only come after the struggle. By depriving the moth of a struggle, he deprived the moth of health.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If we were to go through our lives without any obstacles, we would be crippled. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. Give every opportunity a chance, leave no room for regrets, and don't forget the power in the struggle. –Author Unknown
James 1:3 says that "the testing of your faith develops perseverance." The word “perseverance” comes from the prefix “per” which means “through,” and the
word “severe.” It means to keep on pressing on, even through severe circumstances.
I found a good example of perseverance:
In 1987, Henry Dempsey was the pilot on a commuter flight from Portland, Maine to Boston. While flying, Henry heard a noise from the back of the airplane. He turned the control over to the co-pilot and went to see what it was. As he reached the tail section, the plane hit an air pocket, and he was thrown against the rear door. The rear door had not been latched properly at take off, and when he was thrown against it, the door opened, and he was instantly sucked out of the jet. The co-pilot, realizing what had happened, radioed the nearest airport requesting permission to land and asked for a helicopter to search that area of the ocean. He was hoping that his friend could survive the fall into the water. After the plane had landed, they found the pilot holding on to the outdoor ladder of the plane. Somehow he had managed to catch hold of the ladder and to hold on for 10 minutes as the plane flew 200 miles an hour at the altitude of 4000 feet. Dempsey held on when the plane started its decent. Dempsey, with his face less than 12 inches away from the concrete, held on when the plane's wheels made contact with the runway. Dempsey held on when the plane came to a halt, and Dempsey held on after the rescue workers arrived. Dempsey held on when they told him he was safe. And when they said, "You can let go," Pilot Dempsey found he couldn't. It took more than fifteen minutes for rescue workers to pry his hands from that rail. Pilot Dempsey had held on. He had no other choice, because nothing else was going to save him.
That’s really pressing on through severe circumstances. Like Dempsey, we must learn to persevere by holding on to God with such strength. Don't let go!!!