It’s an upside down theory that contradicts everything our society tries to tell us, but when we look at our lives as believers and we look at the gospel, I can’t help but frame the question: Maybe we were actually meant to suffer?
Most of the time, what God calls us to is not glamorous.
By “calling”, I don’t mean abandoning everything you know to share the gospel on the other side of the world to an un-reached people group. That may be what God has assigned to you, and that is beautiful. But for most of us, “calling” looks like swallowing pride to avoid tension in relationships with those closest to us, intentionally choosing to actually sit down and listen to that friend who is struggling again, taking a deep breath instead of snapping on needy kids, accepting a diagnosis, confronting trauma, or pursuing the heart of God in the midst of brokenness.
I think sometimes we forget because they’re not packaged the same way that these are our callings just as much as any missionary, author, speaker, ministry leader, or pastor has a calling. These are the daily callings that refine our faith and make us who God is calling us to be in order to fulfill the plans He created us to fulfill. These are the daily callings that make the gospel real and tangible not only in our own lives, but in the lives of those around us.
Thus, most of the time what we are called to is not glamorous. Glamour doesn’t change us, and it certainly doesn’t change anyone else we come in contact with. Challenge does. And most of the time our calling is challenging.
Challenging, but never truly confusing. While it may not make sense to us, it always makes sense to God. He is not a God of confusion, but of peace, love, and sound judgement. (1 Corinthians 14:33, 2 Timothy 1:7) His call on our lives, the circumstances we find ourselves in that we are called to embrace, our future — none of it is confusing for Him. It all makes perfect sense. So, when it doesn’t make sense to us, we should further seek the One Who best understands. He best understands all of these things because He is the One in control of them. (Is. 55:8)
Paul challenges us in this by reminding us that we must strengthen our faith by aligning our mind. Philippians 4:4-13 says,
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Paul got it. He knew what it meant to really suffer. From normal daily afflictions and ailments to being mocked and nearly murdered for his faith. His advice to us is this: rejoice. Press into the Lord. You can do hard things.
Sometimes, we live as though we need to increase our faith and pray more so that God will deliver us from our circumstances when in fact the opposite is true, God is calling us to suffer well, just as He did with Paul.
Does God enjoy seeing us suffer? No.
Does God cause suffering? No.
Does God allow suffering? Yes.
He allows it because He loves us.
When you press into Jesus, life doesn’t get easier, you get stronger.
As we walk through the difficult things we are called to, may we remember that the point is always to know Him more deeply, and that happens most through suffering and difficulty. For our ultimate good and His ultimate glory. And you will come out on the other side of the situation changed and better equipped to steward change around you through the power of the Holy Spirit.