Q; What kind of plant grows best after it has been struck by lightning?
A: A Christian?
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
And in another place:
“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12;11)
I love this Hebrews passage because it harmonizes two Biblical truths about suffering and trials:
- Trials are good for you.
- Trials hurt.
Many Christians fall into an unbalanced view of trials, thinking that they are somehow supposed to be happy when they are suffering. This is to think without regard for the reality of terrible circumstances. I think of Christ in Gethsemane, anticipating the agony of the cross, sweating blood. Christ was not smiling, nor was he fearful. His affect was appropriate to the awful events that were to follow. When Christians suffer, sorrow for pain is appropriate, anger at sin is appropriate, grief over personal loss is appropriate.
I’ve always wondered why so many Christian’s seem to say at funerals that they are happy to have lost a loved one. Yes they have actually gone to be with Christ, but it is OK if you REALLY miss them A LOT!
The ironic thing here is that we don’t grow unless we hurt. Pain makes us evaluate what it is we cling to, and God wants to teach us to cling to Christ. Suffering forces the Christian to see that everything else is vanity, and that we have to look to “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus” (Php 3:8).The more we suffer, the more we can see the foolishness of fixing our affections on things that will pass away. The more we suffer, the more we see that worldly affections can’t even make a return on investment before they pass away. Only by emptying ourselves of ourselves and filling ourselves with Christ (Romans 8:28-30) brings eternal satisfaction. Suffering helps us to see forest for the trees by burning it down, first.
We are to be like trees planted beside the invigorating, life-sustaining waters of God’s Word (Psalm 1), and yet sometime God brings a forest fire to enrich the soil and accelerate our growth. Trials serve not only as a benchmark for growth, but as the catalyst.
Now don’t go sticking your finger in an electrical socket, but don’t shy away from trials either. Harmonize the difficulty with the benefit. Praise God for His wisdom. Make the most out of what God gives you.