But stop and think. Probably most believers would readily give verbal assent to the idea that suffering is used by God for good in our lives. We know enough verses to be cognizant of that fact. Often we find ourselves saying in the midst of deep trials that, though we don't know why God is allowing this to happen, we do know that He has a purpose in it.
Somewhere deep in our storehouse of biblical knowledge we know that suffering is good for us. A few of the Scriptures we would point to would be:
1. Suffering points us to the glorious return of Christ. (1 Peter 4:13).
2. Suffering causes dependence on the grace of God (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).
3. Suffering demonstrates the grace of God (1 Peter 2:19).
4. Suffering produces endurance. (Romans 5:3; James 1:2-3).
5. Jesus was made perfect through suffering (Hebrews 2:10; 5:8-9).
6. Suffering perfects us, as it did Jesus (James 1:4).
7. Suffering brings the comfort of God (2 Corinthians 1:5-7).
8. Suffering brings conformity to Christ (Romans 8:28-29; Philippians 3:10).
9. Suffering causes us to long for heaven (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
10. Suffering gets us out of our comfort zone (Acts 8:1).
If all these are true then why is it also true that we tend to dread suffering; we seek to avoid it in every way; we look at it, not as friend, but as a fearsome enemy? All too often we are like the kids in the old TV commercial who, when discussing a yucky, healthy food, said, "It tastes like it's good for us." We don't like the taste of suffering. Why? The answer is the pain. Our focus is on the process and not the product.
What if suffering were a lollipop? What if, in God's economy, He had foreordained that eating a lollipop would perfect the Lord Jesus Himself? What if God had decreed that licking a lollipop would lead us to the abundant grace that is all-sufficient? What if sucking on a delicious sticky lollipop would produce in us endurance and complete us in Christ-likeness? What if the tantalizing taste of a lollipop caused us to long for heaven with all our might?
Answer: we would be ecstatic. We would sing the praises of lollipops. We would longingly look for lollipops. We would encourage others to do the lollipop thing with great perseverance and diligence. We would have lollipop-licking colloquies designed to teach the techniques and joys of lollipop delights.
So the problem with suffering is the pain. Would that God would grant the ability to focus on the goal, the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, and realize that God's ways are perfect. Why does He bring suffering into our lives? Because He wants us to experience every aspect of His glory. His desire is for us to know His grace and comfort and power and peace. He wants us to taste and see that He is good. Look past the pain, past the process to the perfect suffering Savior!
Walter Price is pastor of Fellowship in the Pass Church in Beaumont, Calif., and president of the California Southern Baptist Convention.
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