We think of suffering as something we have no control over or can derive no benefit from. Being human I don’t want to suffer. I want everything to be happy and nice and peaceful but we all know that at times life is none of those things. Jesus was honest with us when he said, “…in this world you will have tribulation…” John 16:33.
The Greek word here translated “tribulation” means pressure or trouble. Have you ever felt the pressure of the situation? I know I have. So Jesus makes a Captain Obvious statement that in this world you will have pressure but he doesn’t leave it there. No he goes on to say, “but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
If I may paraphrase, Jesus is saying, “living in this world there is going to be stuff, but don’t be afraid of the stuff because I’ve got you covered.”
Jesus never promised that there wouldn’t be stuff; He promised that He would get us through the stuff.
So how does dealing with the pressure of stuff become a blessing?
Let’s take a look at the definition for the Greek words for “suffer”: to experience a sensation, be moved by an impression, or to feel to be vexed. This word can actually be used in a good sense or a bad sense.
The Greek words for tribulation and for suffer are both words that handle our feelings or emotions. Pressure, where do we sense pressure? In our emotions, correct? Vexed? Not a word we use daily but it means to be irritated or annoyed or to be tossed by waves. Wow! That sounds like a wild emotional ride.
I’ll be honest, when I feel troubled it’s my mind and emotions that suffer most. And here in my mind and emotions is the battleground that God is preparing to conquer.
Suffering, trouble, vexation, tribulation–which ever word you choose to insert, if handled correctly, is bringing us to a place of trust. Trust is not “putting up with” or “ignoring it and hoping it will go away”; trust knows that God has my best interest in mind.
The suffering identifies areas in my soul that are not under his kingdom rule. Suffering roots out places of fear and insecurity. Suffering gives me a chance to trust, obey, learn, and grow. And that’s what it did for Jesus as well.
Although He was a son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. Hebrews 5:8
If Jesus learned obedience in His mind and emotions through suffering (trusting God has our best in mind) so will I.
Understanding this principle helps James 1 make much more sense.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
Why would I ever consider it joy when I’m suffering, being tempted and tried? Because God is working endurance (strength and patience) in me! His goal is to perfect me and complete me, so I will not lack any spiritual thing that I need. Now that’s a blessing.