Suffering Builds Character

Physical pain is necessary for our survival. If you could not feel pain, your body would be covered with scars. Emotional pain is just another form of suffering and necessary for our growth in Christ. Physical, mental and emotional pain need to be acknowledged and corrective steps taken, or our survival chances are going to decrease. Suffering will certainly get our attention as it should. Small trials often make us beside ourselves, but great trials bring us back to ourselves.

Jesus, being fully God and fully human, was the perfect model for enduring suffering. Apart from the suffering He underwent to pay the consequences of our sin, suffering produced something in His own human life. Scripture says He was made perfect through suffering (Hebrews 2:9,10). “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). These verses do not suggest that Jesus was disobedient or sinful. Rather they refer to His growth from infancy to adulthood when he took upon the form of a man. His growth experience through suffering made Him a compassionate High Priest who could identify with and come to the aid of suffering people. While suffering Christ modeled obedience to our Heavenly Father regardless of the cost. In His humanity Jesus learned the chain of moral values that develop as a result of adversity. “Because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3)

The process of putting off the old self is painful, because denying ourselves is not easy and there is no painless way to die. To surrender our right to self-govern, which we have stubbornly claimed as our right, is a painful process. Growth pains are an inevitable part of life. Your prayers are heard by your loving Father, but they may not be answered the way you thought as the unknown author of this poem illustrates:

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve; I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey. I asked for health, that I might do greater things; I was given infirmity, that I might do better things. I asked for riches, that I might be happy; I was given poverty, that I might be wise. I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men; I was given weakness, that I might feel the need for God. I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life; I was given life, that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing I asked for; but everything I had hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am, among all men, most richly blessed!

Dr. Neil

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