How can suffering be redeemable? How can pain, hopelessness, loss, tragedy, and angst be placed upon eternity's scale and found to be the weight of glory? How can the struggles of so many around this world be used to glorify God and bring good to the one who is suffering?
Someone recently asked me how my generation deals with the horrific amounts of suffering we see. This person continued and explained that, in many ways, no other generation has been exposed to the amount of grief and violence than the "millennial" generation of which I am a part. Though I have seen no comprehensive study on the topic, I am rather inclined agree with her supposition.
To this person, I explained my reaction in light of the bombings and suicides and murders and genocide and atrocities which fill the nightly news: my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
There are many things over the years I have gathered from the scriptures which I am glad the Lord included. Among them is the fact that we are to render unto Caesar, nullifying my fleshly desire not to do so. I also appreciate the fact that He said there would be wars and rumors of wars as the days draw to a close - for there certainly are many of both these days! But one of the concepts which tops the list - just under salvation - are His words on suffering.
Acts 14 never ceases to amaze me. Every time I read through it, I picture Paul eloquently describing the great God we serve, getting accosted by the Jews of Antioch and Iconium, STONED, and left for dead outside of the city. Clearly, as his friends gathered around his inert form, even they thought he was dead. Then the kicker. He rose up and went back into the city. I can only imagine how painful that journey back into town must have been. He bore in his body the bruises of Christ that day. And so we come to the chief end of suffering: to become more like Christ. Paul speaks of it as "an eternal weight of glory" in 2 Corinthians 4:17.
Job, one of the most prominent examples of someone who suffered, said this of his trials: "...when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10). This became one of my favorite verses years ago. Trials do not just change us, they refine us. Trials are the fire to our Christian walk which remove the dross of self and replace it with the pure element of Jesus Christ. Are they easy? Never. And as many are coming to realize, the Lord will most certainly give us more than we can handle. Why? So that we may, with Spurgeon, say, "I have learnt to kiss the wave that dashes me against the Rock of Ages."
I love the wording Spurgeon used and I hope his statement does not become something made trite and cliché. Spurgeon does not say he learned to kiss the wave that 'gently pushes' him into the Rock. He used the word dashes. It is a pounding wave that relentlessly beats into pieces the one upon which it falls. It beats into submission all in its path except the Rock to which we cling.
So many are suffering through insurmountable trials. I know of people whose friends have recently passed away, others living in daily peril, yet another who suffers through disease partly unnamed. Someone's baby is struggling to develop and has been in NICU for a third of a year - her entire life thus far. Someone else's three year old little girl is going through cancer treatment - for the second time. Another person is fighting through a traumatic brain injury after an aneurism forever rocked his world.
To say suffering produces Christ-likeness should not feel like an empty and trite statement - for it is truth. Would we cling to Christ were we not to need Him? Would we learn that Christ is literally everything if absolutely everything should not first be taken away? Scripture teaches that the answer to both questions is 'no.' It also beautifully teaches that suffering, often painful, agonizing, and tear-filled, produces in us an eternal weight of glory found through no other means.