As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I'd like to explore an unusual subject: finding thankfulness in the midst of suffering. This might seem odd, but Christianity has a different perspective on suffering that can astonish many.
Traditionally, as we navigate through the month of November, we often use each day to express thankfulness for various aspects of our lives, ranging from family to health and careers. But, as Christians, we go beyond the norm and find ourselves thankful for rather unusual things—grace, for instance. We are grateful for God's grace and how it instills in us a sense of liberation from our sins. But there's another element, quite peculiar, that we appreciate—suffering.
A Christian Perspective on Suffering
The notion of being thankful for suffering may sound worrisome. Yet, as followers of Christ, we trust that our trials and tribulations serve a purpose. Every pain, every emotional turmoil, offers an opportunity for spiritual growth.
Over time, we realize that our suffering can take various shapes—ranging from issues faced by young children to dilemmas haunting adults. As we mature, we understand that our struggles, much like a refining fire, are shaping us, purifying us.
The Purpose of Trials and Sufferings
In his letter, James enlightens Christians scattered across the world, coping with persecution and life's tribulations. He urges them to consider their trials as pure joy, as these trials essentially purify their faith, cultivate perseverance in them, and shape their character. He encourages them to mature and grow, to become whole, devoid of any lacking.
This perspective contradicts the modern mindset, which often seeks immediate comfort and convenience above all else. However, James reminds us that trials are not only inevitable but also unpredictable and diversified. Yet, they all serve a purpose—to refine us and make us steadfast in our faith.
Navigating through Suffering
So, how should we respond to our sufferings? First, we should rejoice that God can use our trials for our advancement. Just as Wallace Johnson did when he was unexpectedly fired from his job at the sawmill. Instead of sinking into despair, he decided to live his dream of being a builder. This decision led to the inception of the now-renowned Holiday Inn. Looking back, Mr. Johnson could sincerely thank the man who fired him, for the ordeal had paved the way for a more fulfilling career.
Second, we should ask God for wisdom. When confronted with trials, we must seek divine guidance on how to navigate through our sufferings and what lessons to extract from them. During tough times, reach out to God, and ask, "What should I do? What can I learn from this?" These two questions can illuminate the path ahead, imbuing you with a newfound perspective.
Lastly, we should trust God and believe that He knows what is best for our lives. Our faith supersedes our doubts, and acting on this faith with wisdom and understanding can propel us toward a more rewarding spiritual journey.
Finding Strength in Suffering
Suffering doesn't automatically yield beneficial outcomes. Some people emerge bitter and resentful from their trials instead of getting better. The key difference lies in faith. Will you turn to God for help in your suffering? Will you allow God to teach you something in your suffering? Your responses to these questions determine whether your trials will foster growth and strength.
James aptly states, "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." In the end, our trials offer us a chance to grow, mature, and become recipients of God's promised rewards. So, let us embrace the unexpected gift of suffering with thankfulness and nourish our spiritual journey.