“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake …“ Philippians 1:29
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2,3
In chapter 3 of John Piper and Justin Taylor’s book called Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, it portrays the significance of Christ’s suffering on our behalf. “The glory of God is displayed or shines most fully, brightly, beautifully in the manifestation and glory of His grace. That display would be the slaughter of Christ for millions of undeserving sinners. This is the ultimate aim and final explanation of all things – including suffering.”
Although we know intellectually that suffering plays a role in our sanctification, it is still difficult. We in the United States would say we have suffered very little compared to those in places hostile towards the Gospel. But at the same time, James 1 doesn’t enumerate the various trials. Something that might be very insignificant to someone else, could have a very great affect on you. What we do know is that God is always with us through our sufferings. Suffering causes us to trust God more and to long for heaven.
The Psalms are so important to us when we are going through a hard time. In Psalm 28 David says, “To You O Lord I call; my Rock do not be deaf to me, for if Thou are silent to me, I will become like those who go down into the pit.” (vs. 1) David is asking, “God are you paying attention? Listen to Psalm 10, “Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble? He says to himself, “God has forgotten; He has hidden His face; He will never see it.” (vs. 1 and 11) And of course our Lord Himself says in Mark 15:34, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
In suffering we need to hear from God. We desperately desire to sense His presence. C. S. Lewis says that God whispers in our joys and He shouts in our pains. We know what God’s word tells us. He is with us through the deep waters. Nothing can separate us from His love. He will never fail us nor desert us.
When we boil it down all of our trials or sufferings cause us to get a sense of the greatness of God and the smallness of us. We recognize that it’s not all about me, but it’s about God’s glory. Piper says it like this, “the universe is no longer supremely about you. Yet you are not irrelevant. God’s story makes you just the right size. Everything counts.”
What does Piper mean when he says, “Everything counts”? It means our choices, our actions, our attitudes, and our prayers matter. God incorporates these into His eternal plan for the ages. God gives me the opportunity, and the dignity to be a part of what He is doing. We matter!
Let’s put in perspective the trials you are going through right now. God has got the big picture in mind, the eternal picture, for our good and His glory. What we think, do, pray and where we place our faith matters to God, to the angels, and the saints that have gone before us. Get excited. Be grateful. Don’t lose heart. Take action. Remember Psalm 27:13-14, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”