Suffering Series, Part Two: Answering the "Why Me" Plea
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it.” (James 1:2-5, MSG)
Have you ever had this happen to you?
Someone comes to you for advice or for comfort for a really difficult situation they’re going through. You know in your mind that it’s a difficult spot to be in, but you don’t know what to say or what comfort to give, because you don’t know what it’s like to be there in your heart. You feel like you’ve let this person down, somehow, because you’ve never had to walk through that situation. It’s not that you don’t care or lack compassion, but you can’t relate, and so the only advice you have to give feels Christianese or half-hearted.
I’ve been on both sides of this coin. I’ve been both the person trying to relate and empathize to the
best of my ability, and I’ve been the person seeking direction or perspective and felt misunderstood.
So a good follow up question to my first one is, who would you rather go to when you find yourself in a crisis situation: someone who can’t relate but will try their best to help, or someone who understands the exact emotions you’re feeling and knows just what to say and where to direct you? The former isn’t exactly a bad option, but compared to the latter, it has less of an effect on the spiritual development process that happens in our suffering.
A lot of the time, when we’re suffering, we tend to dramatically fall to our knees, fists raised above our heads and shouting, “WHY, GOD?! WHY ME?! WHY NOW?!”
Well, my friend, the ‘why’ is staring you right in the face, smack dab in the middle of James 1:2-5. “You know that when your faith is tested, you learn to be patient in suffering. If you let that patience work in you, the end result will be good. You will be mature and complete. You will be all that God wants you to be.” (NLT)
Recently, I heard a variation of these very wise words when I was going through a trial of my own. I was frustrated, I felt isolated, and I didn’t understand why I was going through what I was going through. I felt truly defeated and despite what any helpful voice told me, I couldn’t seem to rally my spirits. That is until I heard this awesome piece of advice from someone who knew exactly what I was going through and was on the other side of the fire.
“Suffering helps us identify with others and gives us the credentials to minister to others.”
WHOA, that is GOOD, right?! The second I heard that I had to tweet it out.
Here’s the thing: That is exactly why we go through anything. All that means is that the prerequisite for ministering comfort to others is your own personal suffering. In short, your trial and the lessons you learn today will be the very thing that helps you serve others tomorrow.
Are you starting to notice a trend here? Last week, we talked about how your suffering pushes your faith into the open and how people can be set free just by seeing how your faith is matured through the trial. This week, we’re talking about how suffering completes a work within us that makes us into just the right servant to reach others when they go through the same situations.
The truth is, we can’t take our suffering personally, because it’s only partly about us. Yes, it develops, refines, and proves our faith, but it also sharpens and prepares us to minister to others.
So you asked the Lord to use you, huh? Well, then He’s going to test you. And thank God He does, because if we never grew, we wouldn’t be able to communicate just the right Holy Spirit-tested advice to someone who needs the Jesus in you. Do you want to go to the next level with the Lord? Well, then He’s going to need to give you the credentials to go deeper. You see, there is no easy way out. You asked for Him to draw you closer and put you to work for His master plan, and now He’s doing the work you need to finish that destiny. What better way to do that work than a little suffering, especially if it drives us straight to the feet of Jesus?
Yeah, yeah, I know… I’m starting to sound like James. Easier said than done.
But I know in my heart that the trial I just walked through– the one that knocked me down and made me feel defeated– taught me so much about the character of God. And those sweet, little Jesus lessons I learned along the way are going to mean the world to whomever the Lord will put in my path to minister to. Maybe the precious truths that Jesus taught me through that trial will help someone else feel more victorious, more seen and understood.
If you’re suffering today, then be encouraged. You are becoming more well-rounded in your faith. You are walking through something that someone else will need you to light the way for tomorrow. You are receiving the credentials you need to be a more awesome, kick-butt faith rockstar.
So don’t feel alone. Don’t feel defeated. Just ask the Lord to reveal more of His character to you, and then do your best to attach those character traits to yourself.