March 28, 2018
When you lean on God during difficult times, He can use your suffering to sanctify you, remind you of the hope you have in Christ, and make you stand out as a light in the world. Who wouldn’t rejoice in that?
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Christians have a lot to rejoice in, such as being adopted by God and justified by His grace because of Jesus Christ! According to Paul, we can rejoice in our sufferings as well. Notice, he didn’t say to rejoice despite or after, but in our sufferings.
This is convicting because Paul knew suffering! In 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 Paul wrote about being beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, imprisoned, and more. According to tradition, he was eventually martyred.
So how do we put his words into practice? Philippians 4:6-7 is a great place to start! These verses mention anxiety, but Paul’s instructions to turn to God with prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving to experience the peace of God still apply to suffering in general.
By reminding ourselves of God’s character and promises in His Word and inviting Him into our suffering through prayer, we feed our faith instead of our feelings. Through Scripture, God can direct us (Proverbs 3:5-6), comfort us (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), and remind us that Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).
During a rough season in 2017, God showed me how to endure by helping me inform my heart with truth instead of giving in to my emotions. He also sweetly reminded me that I will experience fullness of joy in His presence (Psalm 16:11) because Christ died for me (Romans 5:8). That season literally ended days before I wrote this. Knowing I could very tangibly use that tough, sanctifying experience to encourage others helped me take heart and persevere faithfully.
I’ll finish with a few words on Acts 16:25. In this verse, Paul and his companions were singing hymns and praying at midnight in a Philippian jail. One of my favorite things about this passage is that the other prisoners were listening to them! If we learn how to suffer with hope and rejoicing, we’ll look very different from people who self-medicate, lash out, or lose hope during hard times. As we cling to God, He may use our suffering to give us the chance to share the hope we have in Christ with others.
That’s definitely something we can rejoice in!
This month's memory verse
20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—
1. Do you see suffering as an inconvenience or an opportunity? Why?
2. What coping mechanisms do you tend to pursue during hard times?
3. What does your prayer life currently look like? Do you pray more in good times or difficult times? I recommend the Echo Prayer Manager app (echoprayer.com) if prayer reminders would help you pray more!
4. Do you have a group of Christians who can help support you during difficult seasons? If so, how authentic are you with them about your struggles? If not, take some time to research how you can join a group through your church.
5. How are you doing at writing God’s Word on your heart?