Giving Thanks For The Gift of Suffering
She said, “I can finally say my infertility is a gift. We have been given the gift of suffering.”
Talk about a statement that can stop you in your tracks.
With Thanksgiving in the forefront of our minds, we’re all thinking about the blessings in life we are thankful for. Family, a home, friendships, coffee. I doubt many of us have put suffering on our list.
But what if my friend is on to something here?
Suffering is Inevitable
In James 1:2, we find a call to action to expect trials of all kinds. A Stark contrast to the typical “feel good Christianity”, which claims that Jesus is a Savior of problems rather than sin.
In the aftermath of those who preach such things, many Christians are surprised when suffering comes their way. But James says “when” not “if”, reminding us that they should be expected.
Paul states that we should rejoice in our sufferings (Romans 5:2-3). This too, anticipates that the Christian life encompasses hardships. He also wrote this in another epistle:
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9 ESV)
Indeed, it is crystal clear that this life will have sufferings, even for the Christ follower; maybe even more so.
Suffering is a Gift
When you’re deep in the pain of loss, grief and worry, you may have a hard time believing that your circumstance is a gift. It sure doesn’t feel like it, does it? But are all the gifts that mean the most to us easy? Certainly not.
Marriage is a gift from God. To spend your life alongside another human being brings so much joy. But it’s not always easy. Sometimes, you disagree. Sometimes, you fight. Yet, the fact that marriage is a gift remains.
Children are called a blessing numerous times in scripture. They too, are a gift. But ask any parent and they’ll tell you it’s hard work. It’s not easy, but there’s great reward in raising little ones.
Suffering, though it be difficult, does result in great reward as well.
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake. (Philippians 1:29 ESV)
Salvation and suffering are lumped together here. They are both granted to believers. Through our suffering, we are refined, and made to shine the light of Christ more brightly. We are also proven to be children of God.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16-17 ESV)
Seeing the Beauty of Suffering
In the beatitudes, Jesus claimed, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit…those who mourn…those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”
Why are they blessed? Because “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and “they shall be comforted”.
Acts 14:22 states “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Those who are the Lord’s will experience trials. This is an inevitable fact. But because of Christ, we know that this life is not all there is for us.
The reason Paul could label his sufferings as “light and momentary afflictions” (2 Corinthians 4:17), is because he knew that eternity was just around the bend, where he would see his Savior. He recalled Jesus’ words that he had great reward waiting for him in heaven (Matthew 5:12). Because of this, he could rejoice, even in great suffering.
Because of this, you can rejoice in your sufferings.
And because of this, you can be thankful for the gift of suffering.
This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17–18 ESV)