We know that suffering will come. No matter how you live you life, there will be hard times you must face. It may come as a result of your decision to follow Jesus. It may come as a result of circumstances around you in which you have no control. Or it may come through accident or misfortune. But, the person who finishes life well is the one who endures through the suffering and even embraces it as a part of their calling to follow in the steps of Jesus. This is exactly what Peter says in I Peter 2:21, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (NAS).
Dependence on God in suffering
A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit areas in the bush of Burundi, Africa. Burundi is one of the poorest nations in the world, and I was brought face-to-face with the poorest of the poor. One of the most amazing times came when we stopped along the side of the road. I followed the Pastor/guide up a trail that brought us to a mud hut consisting of a few small rooms. To my surprise, we were greeted by 18 adults and 8 children, all of whom were living in that hut. One room (maybe 10×10) was where the men slept, another room for the women, and the third for the children. The 26 people came from four different families.
These loving, smiling people had fled Burundi during the war in the mid-1990’s. Once returning to their home nation, they had nothing. No jobs, no cars, or anything else that most of us take for granted. Their lives are very, very hard. They cry out to God every day for enough food to continue and He provides. Their dependence on the Lord is about as basic and intense as it gets. Yet they testified to me that “the joy of the Lord is their strength.”
Comfort in suffering
A couple days prior to my visit to these amazing Burundians, I was in the nation of Rwanda. While there, I received a gut-wrenching e-mail saying that a couple who I had known for over 10 years had just lost their young daughter in a car accident. The suffering that my friends went through is beyond description. My heart went out to them and my prayers go up for them. Without the Lord, I have no idea how a family could continue after such a tragedy. But I am confident that this family will go on, will be able to comfort others who experience similar tragedy, and will give a strong testimony on how their dependence on the Lord grew significantly as a result of their suffering.
The bottom line is this: Your suffering can lead to a deeper dependence on God which can actually bring comfort in the hardest of times. This might sound crazy but embrace the suffering as part of your calling to follow in the steps of Jesus.