The Suffering Paradox

Tough times are good times.  That’s because tough times make us tougher. That truth, known by farmers, construction workers, soldiers and athletes, has been largely ignored in a culture in which obesity is a growing threat (no pun intended).  But it’s not just about building muscles.  It’s more about building steadfastness, the willingness to keep going in the midst of suffering.  Here’s how Jesus’ brother James said it:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

Notice that this spiritual toughness is developed by “trials of many kinds,” as a result of the “testing of your faith.”  When everything is going smoothly, much of our faith is theoretical.  Tough times are opportunities to check out what you really believe, to put faith to the test and see if it holds.

Elmer’s glue used to run a commercial in which the ends of two planks were overlapped and glued together to form a diving board.  It took faith for the guy who first went out on the end of that thing to bounce up and down on it.  You can imagine that his first moves were rather tentative.  But as he discovered its strength, as his faith in the glue increased, he became more willing to put some weight into it.  As we face trials in life and are forced to “bounce up and down” on what we have been taught to believe about God.  As we do so, we discover for ourselves that He is faithful.  The tougher our trials, the tougher our faith.

James says this increased faith-toughness builds perseverance and maturity.  Perhaps the example of this truth that is gaining the most attention right now is the story of Louis Zamperini, in the film, “Unbroken.”  But, as inspiring as that story may be, people won’t develop perseverance from watching the movie.  They develop perseverance by testing their faith in tough times.

That’s why tough times are good times.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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