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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

thankful for suffering?

Will & I got to teach this past Sunday night in small group. We're currently doing a study of Philippians and were focusing on the end of chapter 2 this week. You may already know that we love the book of Philippians if you've read this post. I can say with 99% surety that it's Will's favorite book.

Anyway, even though we led the lesson for the group, I feel like I learned so much...or rather, had an epiphany in the midst of teaching. (Actually, I let Will handle most of the teaching. I chime in every now and then!) If you've never read through Philippians, I encourage you to do so. It's a short book with only 4 chapters and is packed full of encouraging verses. Paul wrote Philippians as a letter to the church of Philippi while he was in prison. Can you imagine? Despite being "locked up," Paul used this time to encourage other believers to live faithfully and humbly and all the while he was sharing his faith with prison guards around him. Paul is filled with such joy because he knows that he's living his life with Christ as the center. And if he's doing that, then nothing can shake him...not even prison! I don't know about you, but if I were in prison as Paul was, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be joyful and sure wouldn't be writing things as encouraging as Philippians.

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. 
Philippians 2:14-18

One of the topics we discussed Sunday night was suffering and how can suffering be seen as something to be thankful for. At first, I drew a total blank in my mind. I was thinking, "Really? Suffering? Why should we be thankful for that?" And then it hit me. I feel like this is when God spoke to me most about something Will & I had gone through last year. The beginning of 2012 was a tough, tough time for us. No, not in our marriage, but just things that we were going through together made it so difficult to see what good was going to come from it. It was probably the hardest time in my life and a time when I feel like my/our faith was tested the most. I'm getting tears in my eyes just thinking about what we went through and recalling so many memories. I'm not saying this for you to feel pity for us, but I feel like I should portray how we felt before moving on.

3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5

That being said, when I look back on that time, I know without a doubt that I grew more in my faith during suffering through that period than I have in my entire life. It's truly amazing to think about everything God taught me through it all.

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First of all, in verse 14 Paul says, "Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent children of God..." Do you know how hard this was for me to do?! To just keep my mouth shut! I wanted to talk to everyone I came in contact with about what was going on. It's only because of prayer and constant encouragement from Will that I didn't do that. I realized what was and wasn't honoring to God and even though it was hard, I kept our issues to myself.

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I don't know why we went through the things we went through. And I know that everyone can think of something in their own life that was just as hard. I never thought I would say this, but I am so thankful for that time of suffering in our lives. If God led us through that time just to teach us to have complete faith in His plan, then it was totally worth it. Every single tear and feeling of hurt was worth it. Is there some suffering in your life that you've learned to be thankful for? Whatever it is that you may be going through, God has a purpose in it. Think of suffering as a means of refining that leads to holiness rather than just pain and hurt. I wish I had thought of that last year!

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4

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3 comments:

Christina Williams said...

Thank you for this post!

Rach @ This Italian Family said...

I know, without a doubt, that I would not be the person I am today if it weren't for the struggles I have walked through (with God by my side the whole way!). He is so good and so faithful and I am SO grateful that He makes beautiful things about of brokenness.

Sarah Hope said...

This post is right on! I was convicted last year that I am obsessed with my own comfort, and if I wanted God to grow my faith, I needed to be willing to step out of that into whatever He has for me-- even if that's suffering. What a good reminder! Thank you.

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