Deepened by Everything
When Jesus came he had righteous suffering. In my own life, some of my “challenges” are the ten loads of laundry to do or the children needing to be educated and the baby’s crying. To me, that’s not really righteous suffering but just my circumstances. Perhaps it’s discipline for me and testing and refining, but I wouldn’t want to have an unhealthy view and think that I’m suffering for God by having to do all this work. The suffering would perhaps be to deny my flesh in the middle of that and not lash out at my children for example.
The type of suffering that Jesus went through just seems levels above that! He was suffering from things in the heavenlies that were unfair because He was pure. So, I was wondering what the difference is between the discipline of God in order to refine our characters and the pain we go through because of our own selfish, sinful nature. Some of the suffering is because of who we are on the inside and we’re punished for that. Can you say any more about discerning the difference? I can think I have all these trials, but are they really trials unto the Kingdom of God?
I don’t think it really matters because basically, we are who we are. We’re the product of decisions we’ve made all along and God’s going to take us from where we are and challenge the things that are not of Him and deepen us. I don’t know if there’s a big difference between spanking me for sinning…or causing me to suffer in order to make me deeper, to know Him better and to be more useful to others. I don’t think there’s a big line between those two things because in the end He loves us. We’ve been adopted as sons and daughters into His Family and we wear His Name. We’re His children, He’s washed us in His blood, and we’re made perfect and being made holy or useful. Our perfection, our sonship and our forgiveness are all intact because of the Cross of Jesus and the Blood of the Son. That’s all solid and settled.
Anything after that is God deepening us by challenging blatant sins or challenging our emptiness. He challenges the sins of omission and the sins of commission. Because we’re already made perfect by the Blood of Christ and the rest of it is being made holy by the Spirit of Christ, God works it all together as long as we respond properly to it. Yes, we’ve dug our own holes with sins of commission. But once you deal with all the sins of commission, you’ll then find yourself being challenged and suffering in “unfair” ways. But whether “fair” or “unfair,” who really cares? Because the real issue is whether we’ll open up our hands to God, soften ourselves, and worship like Job did in response to it. Will we let Him teach us that He’s not just a God who does things, but He’s a God Who wants to befriend us and speak with us face to face?
I’ll grant you that we do create a lot of our own problems. When we choose to sin, we create five or six other things as a natural result which then brings pain to ourselves and to others. We begin to sear our conscience and harden it, and other things start to happen as a result, and more suffering takes place. That all may be true but it really doesn’t matter where we are on the spectrum, because He’ll work it together if we’ll hear Him and respond to Him, “Today if you hear His voice, harden not your heart.” So whether you’re hearing His voice about sins of commission or sins of omission, I don’t know that it really matters.
Just a few days ago I wrote down a full page of character things and had to stop when I got to eight because it was overwhelming. I know there are even more things that I need to change in my life—character issues and deepening things and things for which I have no excuse. It was through pain that I learned these things. God sharpened me to areas that He wants me to move ahead in that I hadn’t given much thought to. It wasn’t because I was intending to be rebellious—that’s not been my heart. But He needed to awaken me to things in that gap between who I am and who Jesus is.
So again, I don’t know that it much matters why the source of pain comes, as long as we respond with a gentle and humble heart. He’ll get what He wants and teach us if we get on the road with the right heart and response. He’ll move us toward the goal of the image and personality of the Son. So it’s okay either way.
It’s also important to realize that it’s not any more glorious to suffer persecution because you’ve stood up and said something at a pastors’ meeting, or because you’re persecuted by your coworkers because you took a stand for Jesus. There’s not anything more meritorious or spiritual about suffering in those ways than suffering when all three children are calling at the same time, “Mommy!” Can anybody relate to that? : ) God uses all of those things, and one kind of suffering shouldn’t be categorized as being more mundane or more trivial than another. He’s getting at things in our hearts either way, and that’s all that matters. Both are spiritual and both are ordained by God, so it’s good either way.