Yesterday, one of our pastors, David Goneau, preached on Acts 13 and made the following point: “Jesus’ Lordship advances through suffering.” His point was that through the book of Acts one cannot miss that the message of Christianity spread through the starter soil of opposition. Consider the cross, Stephen, Peter, Paul, James, etc.
So, there are at least two ways to look at our own suffering and hardships:
1. Not the way it is supposed to be. We rail against trauma, suffering, pain, death, hate, illness and much more because it is not the original design and we know it. Brokenness is something to be fought against; to be resisted at all cost.
2. The starter soil for our maturity. Who hasn’t had the experience of coming through a time of hardship with maturity that we wouldn’t want to give up? Haven’t we heard of those who raise children with disabilities say, “I wouldn’t have asked for this but I wouldn’t go back and change a thing.” Like some seeds that need to be frozen before they can bloom, we need certain forms of stressors to grow in maturity. (Consider the character of one who has nothing but luxury and never has to work!)
Is it hard to hold these two truthes at the same time? Yes! And followers of Jesus look for the day when their maturity will be complete and suffering will be no more–when Christ establishes his kingdom once and forever. Until then, we must try to hold on to both thoughts–to work against suffering everywhere (justice work) and yet allow what suffering we do experience to build character while we look for our relief.