Because we live in a world that has promised us instant everything, we struggle when we feel powerless to change or remove unwanted things from our lives. Paul gives us insight into God’s purposes for allowing trials and suffering to continue in our lives, that we might reap the fruit of endurance.
Endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
As we learn to endure, we grow in character. Why does character produce hope? Because character is proof of our identity in Christ. God’s grace takes the pain of suffering, teaches and trains us through it, increases our endurance and strength, and then overwhelming blesses us with the joy of reflecting more of His character. This “proof” of being God’s child, and reflecting more of Christ, brings far greater satisfaction and joy than anything this world could ever offer.
Rebecca Petrie insightfully writes about this truth in her book, “Falling Into His Grace – The Power of a Life Laid Down”. In it, she chronicles her own story of suffering and faith after a tragic fall that left her a quadriplegic for life. She writes,
“As I meditated on this (Romans 5:3-5), it seemed that suffering, rather than causing our hope to disappear, can produce hope. Could there be two different kinds of hope: a natural hope, and a spiritual hope? Through trials we often come to the end of our natural hopes, even hopes that are good. In the beginning this may result in disappointment, discouragement, and even despair. But as we lay hold on to the Lord, we persevere. I find that this perseverance works character in me. And, almost without realizing it, a new hope is born within my soul. It is Jesus Himself, His life, and His love ‘being poured out in my heart.’ For many of us, we have come through or are still in circumstances in which our natural hope is being tested, and even drained away. But oh, as we persevere, what a great treasure it is to have fresh hope that will disappoint us, rooted in the Father’s love.”
I hope you find Rebecca’s words as helpful as I have! Are you experiencing a loss of some earthly hope? Are you struggling to understand why God would allow a good and natural desire to go unfulfilled, leaving you with a sense of hopelessness?
- Do you desire to be married, but as years go by, the chance of meeting a spouse seems to fade?
- Have you been trying to have a child, but find that hope shattered a little more every month?
- Have you been pursuing a goal, career, or dream, but the door keeps slamming shut on those pursuits?
- Have you been striving to raise children to love the Lord, yet find yourself grieving a rebellious child?
- Has a child with special needs made you question and doubt your ability to spiritual lead your child in the ways of the Lord??
Of course it’s not wrong to desire things such as marriage, children, a career opportunity, or healthy children who love the Lord. We should freely bring our hopes and desires before the Lord in prayer. However, if the Lord allows your earthly hopes to fade, I pray that you will be encouraged, as I have, by these truths. As you lay each shattered hope and desire before the Lord, and persevere in Christ, a new hope will be born within your soul. This hope, rooted in the Father’s love for you, will bring greater joy than any earthly hope can bring. If the Lord does not grant us what we desire, we must remember that our Heavenly Father who loved His children enough to sacrifice His own Son, will only withhold such things in order to give us something far greater; Himself.
As I sit now in the rental home God miraculously provided for our family several months ago, I’m in awe of what He has done in my family and me. While I thought we were making a huge sacrifice to give up a comfortable salary, a beautiful home, and some sense of control in our lives, I can now see that God was actually setting us free to experience something greater than we ever expected. As we have learned to depend more deeply on Christ, He has enlarged our hearts to love Him more. In addition to what He has done in us, He has blessed our obedience with many other blessings as well; having my husband home, living closer to family, friends, and church, a smaller house and yard to take care of, and getting better special needs services in our new school. While Christ may allow us to lose what we desire (even good things) on this earth, He will only allow it for the purpose of filling us with an unshakable hope and joy in Him through the gospel.
While I would not wish to relive any of these past years, I am truly thankful for what God has allowed me to endure in order to bear fruit.
*He has taught me to let go of so much of what I thought I wanted and needed in life and given me a vision and drive for what I never would have sought otherwise. This is the fruit of suffering.
*He has taught me to let go of what I think family should look like and trust that His grace is sufficient for even what seems dysfunctional and hopeless at times. This is the fruit of suffering.
*He has taught me to let go of the plans and expectations that I had for my life and my time, in order to receive the calling He has ordained for my life; bringing gospel truth to lonely and hurting parents of special needs children, as well as writing and speaking to encourage those going through painful seasons of suffering. This is the fruit of suffering.
*Most importantly, I have been filled with an incredible hope. My heart is so much more eternally focused as I have gained a deeper understanding of the gospel and have been given a contentment and joy through knowing Christ more and seeing Him glorified through the story He is writing through my life. This is the fruit of suffering.
Have you seen the fruit of suffering within your life or are you still struggling to see how God can bring anything good from what you are currently enduring? Do you believe that Christ will use your suffering to produce endurance, character, and ultimately hope? Even if feels impossible at the moment, would you begin by simply asking Christ to equip, sustain, and carry you through what He is allowing, trusting that He will do as He says?
I know that my trials are far from over, but I am less afraid of the future and am able to more quickly release my fears to my trustworthy Savior because I can look back in confidence at God’s overwhelming faithfulness, goodness, and sovereignty to use every ounce of pain for my good and for His glory. I can truly say that the suffering in my life has not destroyed me as it could have but, rather, has led me to rejoice. By His grace, I can say that I’m grateful for every moment of pain because of what Christ has done in me and through it.
As 1 Peter 1:5-7 says, In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Brother or sister, do not give up. Whether you weary from the trials of life or are frustrated in your battle against sin, do not let the heartaches and pain of this life plant seeds of bitterness and anger, leading you away from what Christ desires to do in and through each and every one of your circumstances. Rather, hold fast to the truth that God can take what would only be for your harm and, instead, use it to produce in you endurance, character, and hope. As we learn to trust every aspect of our lives to the loving hands of our Savior, (even the parts we can’t make sense of) He promises to faithfully work all things together for our good and His glory. Suffering truly is a gift of God’s grace.
“Broken into pieces,
hearts once shattered and laid bare,
now beat with praise
for God’s painstaking rescue and repair.
Healing is assured,
though scars remain and cracks persist.
Resulting in a masterpiece
that never would exist.
Without the blessed fragments
left by suffering and pain.
Remnants now refashioned
into beauty that remains.” – Beverly Carroll