Suffering Brings Us Closer To God

“Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth. (Hosea 6:3)

The one Christian promise I don’t particularly like is the fact that Christian living will bring more than its share of suffering. But that’s exactly what Jesus promised us when He said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)

Mature Christians cling to those words during dark times in their lives. It’s not so much that misery loves company, but rather that we realize that the crosses we will be asked to bear will bring deeper spiritual growth.

Well that all makes sense, at least until the next cross appears in my life. That’s when the devil works overtime to make sure I lose my perspective and forget that the battle has already been won and victory is at hand. He’ll spin his lie because he knows the truth: Suffering offers us the chance to get to know the Lord in ways pain-free living can never provide. Is it any wonder why Paul once said, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes?” (Ephesians 6:11)

James warned us that hard times would come our way. And when they come, he tells us to “consider it pure joy…because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2-3)
What’s so important about perseverance anyway? Why is it such an important Christian quality?

Obviously, the Apostle Paul agreed with James. In fact, he told the Church at Rome, “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)

Peter said that perseverance was right up there next to godliness. “For this very reason,” he said, “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness.” (2 Peter 1:5-6)

Their point and mine are really quite simple. None of us likes to suffer, but suffering is an important ingredient if our lives are ever going to have any chance to mirror the life of Christ. If we want to be more like him, then we, too, must suffer and persevere.

I don’t like the valleys that life brings my way. I haven’t yet learned to confront them with a joyful spirit. But I do know this: My walk with Christ has been strengthened because I have learned to walk through those valleys with him, hand in hand.

Nothing ever grows on the tops of the mountains. The real beauty that God has to offer is always found in the valleys. And that’s where Jesus is, too. He is, after all is said and done, “the Rose of Sharon, a Lily of the valleys.” (Song of Solomon 2:1)

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