1. Suffering. The call of a Christian is to suffer. We are to take up our cross daily, not to be surprised when persecuted, to take discipline from the Lord as an obedient child, and to count it all joy when we encounter trials (Luke 9:23, 1 Peter 4:12, Hebrews 12:6-7, James 1:2, Romans 5:3). One of the big motivators for me to first study theology was when I saw different people go through trials. Trials can either make us bitter, or better. As my grandmother always says, "never let the Lord waste a trial on you." Trials are given for our sanctification, and therefore, our ultimate blessing. May we learn from them what the Lord is trying to teach us as obedient children that we ask not for our lessons to be repeated.
"Our sorrows shall have an end when God has gotten His end in them." -C.H. Spurgeon
It's also important to understand how to handle trials. Do we praise God during them, staying humble, becoming more sanctified, and drawing closer to our Almighty Father? That isn't easy to do in our flesh. It is through the practice of various trials and a proper theology of suffering and the sovereignty of God that will take us through trials in a manner that glorifies God.
I remember hearing the story of a lady whose husband was killed unexpectedly in a car accident. When newspaper reporters showed up at her door only minutes later, asking her if she was angry with God for taking her husband, she replied that the Lord had been unfathomably merciful to her husband in saving Him. How could she be angry with the Lord for taking him to heaven?
Something I knew early on was that I was going to need a robust doctrine of suffering. I knew couples that had gotten married, only to have a special needs baby a year or two into their marriage, or a miscarriage. I knew I couldn't wait until tragedy struck to learn how to think about trials.
What I didn't realize so much at the time, was that as I developed my theology, it would help me in untold ways as I went through my own trials even before marriage. I remember one particular disappointment when my only thought was "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord."I didn't know where that was from in the Bible, it was just the first thought that entered my mind in response. It wasn't until later that I remembered where it was from- it was Job 1:21. I had read the book of Job over and over again in preparation for trial, and that had trained my heart to respond in submission and praise, when I wouldn't have been able to think through what a proper response would be. Of course, that was just one incident. I haven't been through many trials of true heartache, and I don't always immediately respond biblically. Sometimes it takes work. But trials will come, I want to be prepared for when they do.
Are you prepared for trials?
Some books to read on suffering are: