In the past two posts we have been examining practical ways to endure trials. We have seen that perseverance is aided by a joyful response that comes from a clear understanding of the purpose of trials.
We have already talked a little bit about some of the joyful benefits of trials. But as a way to wrap up this series, I wanted to list some more blessings that come through suffering. I hope that the Lord uses these to strengthen your joy in the midst of trouble.
It is a common trend that as people get older — as they accumulate more things, as they enjoy more experiences, as they see more places — worldly success starts to feel less and less significant. When “successful” people encounter trials and reach to worldly things for comfort, they realize that money and experiences have no value in solving the deepest problems of life.
Even believers get deceived by worldly success. But when trials come, they graciously remind us that this sort of success is ultimately useless. Trials wean us off of relying on things that cannot help us.
My personal experience has been that trials make me more eager to go to heaven. I’m sure some of you have experienced that same effect. When we suffer, the idea of heaven becomes suddenly sweeter. It causes a new disinterest in the things of this passing world, and it gives us a greater hunger for the joy and perfection of the world that’s coming.
We feel this especially keenly when our believing loved ones die. If the people we love most (including, preeminently, Jesus Christ) are laid up for us as treasure in heaven, we will have a very disengaged relationship with this present world.
Romans 8, a passage beloved by many for good reason, expresses this idea:
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (verses 16-18)
“As I go through suffering,” Paul says, “I just get more and more hungry for glory.”
Trials will reveal what you really love through how you react. If you love God supremely, you will respond with praise and with prayers for help in seeing the suffering from God’s perspective. But if you really love yourself more, you are going to be upset, bitter, and full of anxiety.
We know from Scripture, including from places like Deuteronomy 13:3, that God desires to be supreme in His people’s hearts and will test whether that’s the case:
You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Remember how the Lord tested Abraham to see if he loved Isaac more than God. God wanted it to be on full display that Abraham really did love Him even more than his own son. That was the value of the test; because of it, Abraham and everyone around him knew exactly where his heart was. And that is one blessing of our own trials today.
Reason teaches us to value the world. Our senses tell us to value pleasure. But faith tells us to value God’s Word, favor, and blessing. Reason says, “Grab what you can and go.” Our senses say, ”Find pleasure at any price.” But faith says, “Obey the Word of God and be blessed.”
See, trials teach us the blessing of obedience. They show us that obedience at all costs brings the blessing of God. David, speaking from personal experience, says this in Psalms 63:3:
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You.
Jesus is the perfect example of someone living this perspective out to the end:
In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation. (Hebrews 5:7-9)
Jesus was obedient in the midst of suffering, and God exalted Him because of it. Likewise, our own suffering exists so that we may receive the blessings that only come through faithfulness under fire. If you learn to obey God in the midst of pain, you will experience the exhilaration of His blessing. That’s His promise.
Sometimes, suffering comes into our lives to equip us to help other sufferers. Look at what Jesus says in Luke 22:31-32:
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.
Jesus tells Peter that Satan is going to shake him up. But he also says that Peter’s faith will make it through to the other side. And when that happens, Peter’s job will be to encourage other believers.
That’s like Jesus in Hebrews 4, and Hebrews 2. He becomes a faithful, merciful high priest able to help those who come to him because he has been through every trial we have been through. That’s what makes him a merciful, faithful high priest. In a similar sense, we go through trials for the purpose of being able to help those around us. How wonderful that God allows us to learn by experience. We follow His example by learning to help our brothers and sisters through what we suffer.
So we see that, by God’s grace, our suffering is far from useless. It overflows with purpose and with glory. So may we learn to endure suffering with joy as God uses it to equip us for greater happiness and for greater usefulness to His purposes.
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