Suffering leading to joy
By Beverley Russell
3. Why does it have to be suffering that leads us to the joy?
That “suffering before the joy”, that “cross before the crown”, means we have to believe in advance that the joy will come far into the future. The Father may not rescue us or make the suffering easier, but He has promised to be there with us in the suffering, and to reassure us that the future joy is there for we “suffer for righteousness sake … be not afraid”, and “it is better … to suffer for well doing, than for evil doing”, 1 Peter 3:14-17.
It is not the reasons for the suffering that we should be looking at, but why the suffering begins and continues. The why of God’s silence, sealed lips and deaf ears, is the issue that we have trouble accepting. It might be that fear of abandonment when He has so much more of greater importance on His mind than our seemingly insignificant perils. He has envisaged suffering as part of our contract with Him, but we might feel it is out of control. We feel, like Job, that He is not in the north, south, east or west. He must have abandoned us already. “How can He be here with us?”, and that concern leads some of us to deny His presence. Suffering can lead us into a hopeless pit, if we allow ourselves to go there and like frozen assets, or a tied up bank account, all our knowledge of God is worthless and no earthly good. That breeds faithlessness. And faithlessness hangs like a heavy stone about our neck, weighing us down, further into the mire of the pit. It seems the weight cannot be cast aside. Then God is abandoned.
But it is not like that for everyone, not for those who are firmly rooted with the Father.
We are assured that the body of Christ is there, in the most terrible suffering, for he was there before we were there. Where there is a chink of light, or a touch of a hand, or a glance, or a look, or a tiny kindness done, that indicates that the body of Christ is there, responding. Isolation and despair can be counteracted by the defining influence of God in the small things, if only we will look and see. For this comforting message, it is well worth the risk of a tiny message in a dangerous place, an eye message, a finger message, a message from God of His love, in this seemingly God forsaken place of a torture chamber.
If I will not abandon God for any cause, then suffering has a meaning for me, only me, for no one can see it or feel any meaning, only me. It is me who has to take my eyes from the backward glance and focus forwards, looking up. I only I can discover myself, in the looking up and with that opportunity serve my suffering. Or I, as a comforter, can also discover myself in the opportunity to love and serve a sufferer helping them to look up.
Is that the reason for suffering, that, in the needs around us, we can help others in their suffering? Or is there more? We know "Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep". But that is in the continuing and constant prayers for relief from suffering with a general acceptance and understanding of how God works. We know that He may say “no”, and that suffering is only for a season. So in all the circumstances, we can be hopeful, and grow faith. And we can still say, “God is good”, even in the most terrible suffering.
1 Peter 1:6-9 tells us that our “heaviness”, in our trials, is only for a season and that trial borne is more precious to God than gold. That praise and honour, and the glory given to God will be recognized at Christ’s appearing, when we shall obtain "the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls”. The reason for our trials, troubles and suffering, is so that our faith will grow. Verse 6 says, "...even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith....even though tested by fire, may result in the praise and glory and honour of God in return”. With Peter’s Godly advice and this knowledge and picture in our minds, we are clothed with a panoply of faith, which can even better protect us as we move through the vicissitudes of our life, in all our sufferings and in all our torments.