You Want Me to WHAT? - Thoughts on Rejoicing and Suffering

The readings for the Church today were some of the most comforting Scriptures and this quote from the second reading is one of my favorites.

Except when it's not.

See, I don't know about you but I don't think I really rejoice in my sufferings all that much.  Do you?  I tolerate them, whine through them, grit my teeth through them, and sometimes (rarely) I bear them patiently and offer them as a gift back to God.  But rejoice?  Not much.  It reminds me of those martyrs who went to their gruesome deaths singing and praising God and there I am swallowing curse words when I stub my toe.  When I'm in the midst of suffering, I don't often want to be told to rejoice, you know?  And especially, when I think of sharing in Christ's suffering who, you may have heard, was crucified.  Rejoicing isn't the first thing that comes to mind when I think of taking part in that.  But maybe it's because when I hear that word I think more of someone leaping in happiness rather than its literal meaning of taking joy.  Joy, or chara in the Greek, actually means an "awareness of God's grace or favor."  That helps a bit in understanding how we can truly rejoice in our sufferings, I think.  It is the awareness of God's grace that brings that deep peace, in the midst of some of the most agonizing moments of our lives.

I love that God tells us our sufferings are worth something.  I love that there is meaning behind them and that they make me like Him.  What a great joy it is, then, to know that the more we suffer (for what is good, the Scripture clarifies), the more we will share in His glory.  Sort of a no pain, no gain kind of thing.

So what are your sufferings?  Is there a way to rejoice, to find God's grace, in them?  Can you see that they make you like Him?  When you are maligned, forgotten, snubbed, attacked?  When you offer yourself at great cost to the people around you (and often are rejected)?  When you hurt or agonize or grieve, can you see that you are united to Him?  Whatever those deepest pains and struggles are, the more we allow ourselves to be united to Him through them, the fuller our joy not if but WHEN His glory is revealed.  And we can be sure it will be.  That doesn't necessarily mean that we are smiling our way through them (though sometimes) but rather that we find peace and a joy deep within that it means something and that it is part of a story much bigger than we can see.

I think many of us have realized and learned this in our lives at least in a little way.  When there are times of want and suffering and struggle, sometimes the more there is, the greater our gratitude and joy when it is relieved.  Sickness makes us more grateful for health.  Loneliness makes us more grateful for friendship.  Dryness makes us more grateful for the rain.  Yet it is a lesson we sometimes forget when we are in the midst of it.

Do not lose heart.  Whatever you are going through, believe that God only allows it for your good.  Believe that His glory is going to be revealed in you.  I know that can be so hard to hear and believe.  (I need to hear this as much, if not more than, anyone.)  Sometimes it's even interpreted as being callous to the one suffering.  But what is much more callous is not offering hope and letting someone's suffering consume them.  Whatever struggle, grief, or suffering you are going through, it is not in vain.  The more we suffer as He did, the greater the joy when all is revealed.  Those battle scars will be transformed into signs of victory but we don't always see that when the wound is still bleeding.

Let us pray for one another and bear each other up, encouraging the Body of Christ not to run from suffering but to rejoice and bear it joyfully (and together!) for it is a sign of God's glory to come.

Anything from today's Scriptures speak to you?  I'd love to hear about it!

And have a blessed restful Sunday!

{Sunday Scripture Snapshots}

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