Feb 26, 2008

Suffering and Joy

We don't like suffering.

We don't like to think about it, we don't like having to look at creatures and people suffering, we don't like going through suffering.

When we think about our optimal life, suffering is about as far as you can get from a life of joy and happiness. As far as most of us are concerned, suffering is the antithesis to joy.

And yet, the Bible tells us something very different about suffering. The Bible tells us that the pathway to joy is paved through suffering.
  • 1 Peter 4:12-13 "Do not be surprised at the painful trail you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the suffering of Jesus Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."
  • 1 John 3:13 "Do not be surprised my brothers, if the world hates you."
  • Romans 5:3-5 "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that our suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts."
  • 2 Timothy 1:8 "But join with me in suffering for the gospel."
This shouldn't surprise us because our joy of eternal life was purchased through the cross, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And our experience in life teaches us the same lesson. For instance, take health. In order to be healthy, we need regular exercise, diet, and discipline. And each of these things are painful. I've just recently started working out again in the gym. I can testify, working out hurts. I've recently been on a low carb diet because my sugar levels were too high. Did you know lettuce has carbs? It was excruciatingly painful to find foods without carbs.

And should we avoid the suffering of these pains because we think joy is the opposite of pain, the result is a greater pain of disease in the body.

Because we have believed the lie that joy and happiness can be achieved without suffering, at the first sign of difficulty in marriage, our jobs, family, church, spirituality, we want to run away. But it's precisely by going through the pain of working those issues out that we develop greater health.

I know it is counter-intuitive, but if we want joy, the road to joy is paved through suffering.

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