I think one reason we struggle in a place of suffering is we are all afraid at some time we cannot emotionally bear what we are being asked to endure. We think our suffering in the body is too much and that we are unable to make it any longer without relief. We fall back on the mistaken belief that what is happening to us is intended to destroy us, and we rarely think about it destroying us spiritually. We are focusing on that earthen vessel part, thinking it is going to take our life away and “then what?”
Another mistaken belief is that God is just not around while we are being pummeled by our circumstances or that He cannot react fast enough to preserve us or our faith. In reality, God does not react to things; He is not sitting around up there waiting to see what will happen next. He already knows because God equals causation, not reaction.
We fear falling apart, we fear losing our faith. I have seen it myself. In the midst of suffering, we wonder “Don’t You love me God?” “How can You be good and faithful and let this happen?” We listen to the lies Satan whispers in our ear and we begin to believe…God is not good, God is not faithful, and God is not for us. That message is compounded by the constant negative drumbeat of the world we live in.
Someone is always trying to tell us the Bible is not true, God is not trustworthy, He is not Who He says He is. How much does it take for a long time believer to begin to wonder if this is all it is cracked up to be? How about a new or untaught believer? How long after being saved did that “nothing bad is ever going to happen to me now that I am a Christian” thing last? And if there is no foundation under that profession of faith, what is there to stand firm on?
Listen carefully to this: people who think that trials and suffering happen because you are not a Christian, or not a “good enough” Christian miss the point that the very strongest source of assurance is tested faith...tested faith. Suffering and trials can reveal a lack of assurance in one’s salvation. Sometimes that is warranted because actions don’t indicate there is anything spiritual going on there. We don’t see inside the heart of a person but they have made a profession of faith… it could be that these trials are to draw them to God toward genuine saving faith.
I am cautious because there is so much easy believism in churches today, and people are being given the message that they can be secure in a salvation they do not even possess! I want to be sure they are truly saved first. When I am as sure as I can be then I can confidently declare to them that the testing they are in the midst of could be the strongest proof of assurance. A sign from God that you indeed do belong to Him!
James 1 says that our trials will produce a perfect faith that never doubts.
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 (NASB)
This faith is so strong that no matter what happens it never touches your eternal hope. When your response to trials is correct what will come out of them will be a mature complete, confidence in God’s eternal purposes in your life.
This can be your greatest source of joy.