In my life, I have encountered so many things that have caused suffering. It is natural to just want to "solve" them or to ask God to remove them. But in the midst of suffering, we can see God doing something that is very powerful and causing us to change to be who God has made us to be and refines us by removing the things that are not of Him. We look at 1 Peter 1:6-7 we can read how suffering is something God uses for His good in us.
It is interesting that there is "wonderful joy ahead". When you are in the midst of pain, that is something that you feel is the most ridiculous statement. How can there be joy in that can come through the tough situation that I am in? It would be good to look at some scriptures that bring out the powerful blessing that we encounter as we suffer.
I find this one of the most challenging scriptures. Jesus could walk through the shame, ridicule, pain and hurt because he knew that through this was going to be a great joy that would be much greater than any of the hurt he had experienced. Jesus knew the joy He would experience through going through the suffering was something that kept Him on track and caused Him to continue to suffer. Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him!
Steve Furtick has a short video about joy. Joy is a decision about my priorities. Where my joy comes from determines when it runs out. When money, fame, recognition or where I get my joy leaves, then so does my joy. When my joy comes from God then it can never run out. God is always with me and will never leave or forsake me. The source of my joy comes from knowing my priorities. Joy comes through setting priorities. If my priority is recognition for example, then recognition controls my joy. If money is my priority, then how much money I have will control my joy. Steve says that there are many backseat drivers in our lives that are controlling our joy. Finances, what we look like, our statues, our standing, the recognition we receive, our situation and the list goes on. When we have God first, then He is the one that is the source of our joy. God is teaching me that joy does not come from my situation, from the things that I find important, but finding out who God is to me. Where my joy comes from determines when it runs out. When money, fame, recognition and even my marriage and family leaves, then if that is where I get my joy then my joy leaves as well. When my joy comes from God then it can never run out. God is always with me and will never leave or forsake me. The source of my joy comes from knowing my priorities.
I love Psalm 126:2-6 from the Passion Translation. It is a great Psalm about God being our fullest source of joy. Even the nations around said, "we want that as well!"
2 We laughed and laughed and overflowed with gladness. We were left shouting for joy and singing your praise. All the nations saw it and joined in, saying, “The Lord has done great miracles for them!” 3 Yes, he did mighty miracles and we are overjoyed! 4 Now, Lord, do it again! Restore us to our former glory! May streams of your refreshing flow over us until our dry hearts are drenched again. 5 Those who sow their tears as seeds will reap a harvest with joyful shouts of glee. 6 They may weep as they go out carrying their seed to sow, but they will return with joyful laughter and shouting with gladness as they bring back armloads of blessing and a harvest overflowing!
In my suffering, God is in the process of removing all that is not from Him and is instead, replacing it with what He gives me. He is using the suffering to cause all of the things of the past to come to the surface and I am forced to allow it to destroy me, or I can bring it to Jesus and allow Him to cut it off and bring healing.
Suffering has a number of elements that strips us of the things that we hold closest to and it causes us to experience the joy that we could not even understand outside suffering. The suffering is an "invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can!" Through suffering, we not only learnt to endure, but it also leads us to perfection. I see this as God removing all the things in our lives that are not of Him, and instead filling us totally with Him. We then come to a point where we are walking as Jesus has designed or made us to walk. All the things that have been influencing us and causing us to act and behave in the wrong way are brought to the surface, dealt with and removed so we can walk truly as the sons and daughters of God He has made us to be. That puts another light on suffering. This is highlighted in James 1:2-4 in the Passion Translation.
2 My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! 3 For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. 4 And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.
I want perfection in every part of my being!
In Romans 8:18-21 we read:-
18 I am convinced that any suffering we endure is less than nothing compared to the magnitude of glory that is about to be unveiled within us. 19 The entire universe is standing on tiptoe, yearning to see the unveiling of God’s glorious sons and daughters! 20 For against its will, the universe itself has had to endure the empty futility resulting from the consequences of human sin. But now, with eager expectation, 21 all creation longs for freedom from its slavery to decay and to experience with us the wonderful freedom coming to God’s children. 22 To this day we are aware of the universal agony and groaning of creation as if it were in the contractions of labour for childbirth. 23 And it’s not just creation. We who have already experienced the firstfruits of the Spirit also inwardly groan as we passionately long to experience our full status as God’s sons and daughters—including our physical bodies being transformed. 24 For this is the hope of our salvation.
Then the process of suffering is not a bad thing at all. For our bodies it hurts so much we sometimes just want to die. This is the painful death of the flesh that is spoken about in Romans 8. But as we die to our flesh, we then truly enter the Kingdom that Jesus came to reveal to us. Suffering takes us from bondage and can cause us to be released into amazing liberty and freedom. To walk as God's children on the earth as He intended!
Today, I encourage you to embrace the suffering because in this position God is leading you to a place of joy that has no end. Allow Him to expose all things in your life that are not from Him and seek Him to cut them off and deal with them so they are removed and no longer have any impact in your life. Then allow God to fully fill you with His Spirit so you can walk on this earth with the reality of His spiritual kingdom having a greater impact in your life that the things that are physical and are around you. When this is the case, you will be living a life of amazing joy that is not impacted by any suffering, disaster. You need to endure the cross or the suffering you are in, but remember that there is the great joy set before you when you do. Paul did this and said:
I want to live like that!