We humans are unique from the rest of creation. We have an inner man and an outer man. The inner man is the moral center in-breathed by God that can logically reason and connect with God. The outer man is the body that we feed and bathe and use in this world to function. Pretty cool design.
When going through severe or long trials, I realize that God enlightens my inner man in stages. Stage one is the shock that I am actually in a difficult place from which I can’t seem to easily escape. In stage two I am overwhelmed with questions. Was it my fault? Is God testing me like he did Abraham? Why am I even going through this stuff? Over the years, this second stage has lessened because I understand the love of God in a greater way. I’ve learned that even if there is some fault in my steps, God is not so unmerciful as to abandon me in an ocean of trouble with no life jacket. And finally, in stage three, I realize that whatever caused me to be here, I must go through this trial with a good spirit. Let me explain what I mean by “good spirit”.
The scripture tells us in I Thessalonians 5:23 “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”. God talks to us about our inner man having a moral connection where it can be held accountable in some way—that is the soul. The spirit and soul may be somewhat interchangeable, but spirit is the mental attitude of man. Am I going through this trial with a good mental attitude and disposition?
Job in his sickness complained to God. Although Job started out his situation encouraged, the daily grind and weight of what he was going through and not knowing how or when it would end, began to take its toll. Job said in Job 6: “If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas—“. Like Job, we will feel the weight of our suffering. I believe God wanted Job to feel the weight. If God took it away, Job would not have learned the lesson of humility. Job had difficulty taming his attitude during his sickness.
Often, we’ve read these old bible stories, but frankly our feelings get in the way of application. When we’re in the middle of afflictions, hurts, persecutions or some suffering and uncertainty, so many feelings and thoughts permeate our minds. I the middle of all we go through, however, remember that any suffering we endure is being overseen by God. He is looking straight at our every need and has not forgotten us.
Suffering has an internal and eternal purpose. It is designed to change us into a better image—the reflection of Christ. Suffering is not fun, but the results of suffering make us stronger in our spirit to do the right thing. We look back and think “I didn’t go through all this suffering just to half-step with God”. I am learning that troubles of life are why God, so often in scripture, tells us to set our mind, and affection on things above and not on earthly things. If we concentrate on the suffering itself, we’ll never make it through. But if we focus on God, and his will, and what he is molding us into, then purpose arises out of my suffering. There is hope in purpose and hope erases any shame that we suffer.
Suffering has an external purpose. As we go through these problems and others observe our walk with God, it becomes clear that afflictions are not just for our own advancement in God. When others talk about us, accuse us, hurt or defraud, and we keep the love of Christ in our heart, it is a testimony of the power of God and proof of Christ. I was looking through some scriptures one day and noticed how many times Paul in recounting his sufferings, connected it to other people. Arriving at the end of a particular trial is a testimony to others that they can make it through their situation as well. God uses our lives as a way to teach and encourage those looking on. Look how many examples in scripture have encouraged us today. Joseph and his suffering at the hands of those that loved him; David being persecuted by Saul. Daniel being plotted against for being godly. All came out of their trials with a forgiving attitude—an excellent mental attitude—an excellent spirit.
Scriptures to consider:
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Philippians 1:29
And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 2 Corinthians 1:6
Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 2 Timothy 2:9-10