We often find our identity in suffering.
As much as we have a clear idea about the persons we desire to be, our actual shaping takes place primarily through our reactions. And this is where the vital portion of our character formation is understood: we can never become the people we want, without first going through the sufferings we hate.
This is the harsh reality as we live, waiting to be taken to Glory.
My year, so far, has been anything but desirable. It has been one obstacle after another: physical, emotional, spiritual. An endless onslaught of battles, leaving me broken and tired and frustrated most days. I’m not going to lie and say this has been a great time of growing closer with God; sure, there have been gracious moments but I cannot spiritualize suffering like I used to. I could weave in and out of bible verses so well, praise would be the only response.
But what happens when the weaving can’t be done. When the life-giving Word seems to dry up in your very hands. When the touch of God is far, far away and your left beaten and dirty on the floor praying to the ceiling fan? That’s where theology must bow to love. It must inform it, guide it, and guard it; but at the end of the day our understanding is always subject to something greater, to Someone greater.
It’s funny when you realize you’ve gotten exactly what you asked for. At the beginning of this year I asked God to make me into a man of character, to make my verse for the year more than something in my head. He heard. And now I see, at least in part, why most of the prayers in between then and now have seemed to go unanswered. Because He heard the first one, the one I prayed with my heart by the Spirit’s leading. Not the ones I’ve prayed out of my circumstances.
I’ve heard that He will never give us more than we can handle. I don’t know if I really see that in the Bible – all the great men of God were only remembered because they were given tasks they could never accomplish apart from the work of God!
I say, He gives us enough to bring us to our knees.
You may not find shelter during this storm. A warm, dry, safe place to wait it out. But if you step outside, if you stare at the winds and the rain and say my Father is greater, He will hold you. You may get wet and bruised, your clothes might rip and people may scream at you to come inside. But didn’t He promise to dry your tears, didn’t He promise to heal your wounds, didn’t He lay out clothes of righteousness on Calvary? And while they scream, doesn’t He whisper His truth. Child, I am with you always.
I desperately want the storms to be over. However, I will be more thankful for them at the end of my days than for the calm victories which only produced pride.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,
if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.