We need a culture which will accept the mysterious meaning of suffering and death. Your faith will be tested and will inevitably undergo constant testing. A disciple, after all, is not above His master.
You was made a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to you, according to the working of His power, and God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. Since His power is so glorious, you will be strengthened with strength of every kind, and be prepared and know that you can do all things through Him who strengthens you. Because of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things.
If you have truly died to self, then over time your instincts will be dead to the rocks and glass and thorns of this world which used to move us. Those standing on the gospel will not react in the flesh. Instead, we will move by God’s Spirit with a protected disregard for such fleshly considerations, being readied by the shoes of the death, burial, and resurrection of God, which is the Gospel that brings peace.
It is God who arms us with strength and makes our way perfect. He makes our feet like the feet of a deer so you will be able to stand on the day of battle. He trains our hands for battle and God give us his shield of victory, and his right hand sustains us. ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.
The stronger the potential faith, the greater the testing one should expect. Testing and suffering reminds us who really is Lord of our life…and it’s not us!!!
The hardest thing about suffering is remembering the central focus of the test to keep our faith strong.. If we lose this focus, we fail the test. Failure is never final; God is always forgiving and will restore us even when we have failed. For this reason, we regularly and daily pray for a stronger faith, we can also expect that the strengthening of one’s faith may best be accomplished through the experience of testing. Our faith is never so strong that it is ever exempt from or immune to testing and, at times, failure. Even when we fail, God never forsakes us.
In order for faith to be strengthened, it must be refined by fire and as our faith is refined, our feelings will, if possible, undermine our faith. God allows Satan to test us for the purpose of demonstrating to Satan just how strong a believer’s trust in God is. It is Satan who does the damage to the extent allowed by God and our sometimes ill-equipped selves.
God sets the maximum boundaries for the “allowable” limits of suffering we will endure; Satan pursues them to the max God does not wish us to suffer; However, He must test us as we need to be tested. Therefore the most critical and difficult testing which we will endure can be expected to involve those things, people, friends, family, etc. and issues which, from our perspective, are most highly prized, precious, valuable, esteemed and loved. Indeed, every essential value, belief, moral, attitude, motivation, world-view and perspective by which we live will be severely tested and, through such testing, leave us strengthened for God’s service. This is the ultimate focus of trial to strengthen our character. Before, during, and after testing, we ought to constantly examine in which ways our armor is weakened so as to prepare ourselves for the inevitable next–and greater–testing. The longer and more severe the testing, the more zealously we need to examine our armor.
We need not and should not blame God for suffering which is a result of our own foolish, intentional sinful actions. Such actions should direct us to the unlimited forgiveness and grace of God. Suffering is not punishment. It is discipline, specifically the discipline of our character. It is the way God demonstrates that we are His children. We are never alone in our testing, even when we feel we have left God or He has left us. Suffering is not a Means of Grace. It is, however, a gracious and careful preparation of God for greater exaltation in His grace. Thus, whatever suffering we endure as a testing of our faith is cause for joy, not despair. Our final response to the suffering and testing of God is always to bless God. Our trial is not completed until such time that we have used the promises of God in Word and Sacrament to deal effectively with grief.
The most power testimony of our trust and faith in God is patient endurance which trusts that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Painful learning of our weakness in trial makes for easier, day by day application of God’s power in our everyday living during and after trial. After trial, we are never the same. Trial, as God intends, exposes and deepens our weaknesses even as it uncovers and develops new strengths and opportunities for ministry. The tears of trial, therefore, are the chisel God uses to change our heart painfully but skillfully to enliven our hope in God.
Who or What are the things which God graciously provided to sustain us in trial may also be painfully removed, as part of the trial, at such time God deems necessary. God ultimately uses suffering as an act not of Law, but of Gospel, to draw us and renew us in the suffering, death, resurrection and forgiveness into which we have been baptized. Thus, the ultimate focus of trial is to highlight God’s gracious and undeserved love for us in him.
Death, at God’s time, is the final blessed deliverance from suffering. Until that time, life will be full of difficulties as we walk in the valley of the “shadow of death”. For our death from an eternal perspective is never a tragedy, instead it is the blessed deliverance from an evil pain filled world.