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Exulting in Tribulation

 Exulting in Tribulation

“Life is difficult.  This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths” (The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck, M.D., p. 15).  As in all areas, the Bible is completely honest with us.  It does not ignore or downplay suffering, rather it reminds us that suffering is real and will even be part of the life of a faithful Christian:

  • “In the world you have tribulation” (John 16:33).
  • “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
  • “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

The Common Temptation

“Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult.  Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy.  Life is a series of problems.  Do we want to moan about them or solve them?  Do we want to teach our children to solve them?  Most of us are not so wise.  Fearing the pain involved, almost all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, attempt to avoid problems.  We procrastinate, hoping that they will go away.  We ignore them, forget them, pretend they do not exist.  We even take drugs to assist us in ignoring them, so that by deadening ourselves to the pain we can forget the problems that cause the pain” (The Road Less Traveled, pp. 15,16).

I am impressed that God always exhorts us to face problems, trials and suffering honestly, cleanly and head on:

  • “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
  • “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).
  • “So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).

The Amazing Benefits

  • Personal and Spiritual Growth

“When we avoid the legitimate suffering that results from dealing with problems, we also avoid the growth that problems demand from us” (The Road Less Traveled, p. 17).  “As Benjamin Franklin said, ‘Those things that hurt, instruct’.  It is for this reason that wise people learn not to dread but actually to welcome problems and actually to welcome the pain of problems” (p. 16).

  • “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).
  • “Count it all joy” (James 1:2).

 

  • Growth for My Family

When my children see me facing problems, rather than avoiding them.  Taking about the problem with their mother, praying about the problem, asking for counsel from the elders or other wise and godly Christians and going to the Scriptures and searching for wisdom, such is teaching and showing them how to handle the problems that they will be facing in the future. Going through times of legitimate suffering, and not withdrawing into ourselves can be a great lesson to our kids. 

  • Spiritual and Mental Health

“The tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness…Some of us will go to quite extraordinary lengths to avoid our problems and the suffering they cause, proceeding far afield from all that is clearly good and sensible in order to try to find an easy way out, building the most elaborate fantasies in which to live, sometimes to the total exclusion of reality” (The Road Less Traveled, p. 17).   In like manner, the Bible emphasizes the tremendous spiritual and personal growth that results from honestly facing the challenges of life with God at our side (James 1:2-4).

The Importance of Endurance

  • “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (Hebrews 10:36).
  • “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life” (James 1:12).

A common temptation that besets us is that we simply wish that the problem would go away of its own accord.  That if we simply ignore it, the problem will just disappear with the passage of time.  Thus we live in a world where people do not look at their bank balances, never open credit card statements, ignore problems in their children, just hoping they will grow out of it.  Ignore problems in their relationships, refuse to see how their addictions are complicating their lives, fail to prepare for retirement, death and the life beyond.  We all live in a world in which many people are very talented at procrastinating, saying, “I don’t walk to talk about it”, and burying their heads in the sand.

Taking the Time

“Many people simply do not take the time necessary to solve many of life’s intellectual, social or spiritual problems” (The Road Less Traveled, p. 28).   It is tempting when facing a problem to simply throw up our hands in the air and say, “This is beyond me”.   Yet, the problems that we all face are not beyond us and our God.  When it comes to problems or challenges, the real issue is not the complexity of the problem, but the willingness to patiently endure and use the tools that God has given us.  The following tools are essential:

  • Delay gratification.  Work first and play later.  Avoid saying, “I just don’t have the energy to deal with this problem right now”. 
  • Confidence that God has promised to be with us and will see us through this series of challenges, that we are not alone (Hebrews 13:6).
  • Wisdom from God is available, we simply need to trust Him and ask (James 1:5).
  • Trusting that what God has said is true.  That in the process of going through this challenge that I will grow stronger, learn many valuable lessons, increase in wisdom, and my example will bring glory to God (1 Peter 4:16).

God Loves Me/I have Value

  • “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:5-6). 

Therefore, the presence of problems, trials, suffering and challenges is never proof that God doesn’t love us.  God actually loves us enough to allow us, even His children to be tried and tested (James 1:12; 1 Peter 4:17-18).  The realization that you matter to God and have value is so important.  Because someone who understands this, will take the time and make the effort to care for oneself in ways that are in one’s best eternal interest.   When I know that God loves me, and is watching out for me, then that helps me to have the patience, take the time, develop the endurance to do everything to make sure that I benefit from my trials rather being destroyed and weakened by them.  The good news is that we all have a choice, and God is willing to help each one of us through the problems and trials of life.

Mark Dunagan/mdunagan@frontier.com

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