“God may wish you to learn to bear trial without consolation, to submit yourself wholly to Him so you may become more humble through suffering.”
—Thomas à Kempis (1380–1471)
These are castigating words, and it’s a scolding theme, but it nevertheless holds true in some circumstances. In such a mood, such a concept takes us, with a godly purpose, into the time of trial.
Some trials are self-induced, like the consequences of foolishness, and some aren’t, like a tragic loss or conquest against us seemingly beyond our control. However they come about, we suffer.
The choice we have is how do we suffer? Do we languish or flourish? Given the choice, that’s not much of a choice.
To Languish Or Flourish? – That Is The Question
The default of suffering is to languish. With our minds disengaged, or engaged toward an irreconcilable anger, we are swallowed through the sinkhole of enduring and repetitive resentment.
This is a normal response. But it isn’t a helpful response.
By far more helpful is the option to flourish—which is just as easy amid the mode of suffering, when we fix our minds on the interminable target of the Lord Jesus—our Blessed Hope.
Many might argue that flourishing requires much more effort than languishing. It might require a little more effort initially, which is manifest in humility, but it saves us the corrosive emotional energy divested when we realise we are heading towards helplessness and hopelessness because our resentment finds us languishing.
Again, it’s not much of a choice—but that’s good!
We don’t want to be given the choice. The point of suffering is getting through. There can be no other point. Where is the sense in getting stuck?
But our final lesson, the compelling motivation, is dedicating our suffering to God.
Giving All to God
When we are enamoured to our suffering we have the perfect opportunity to lay all our laments at the foot of the cross, dedicating them to the Lord Jesus, who suffered more than anyone could suffer again.
Opportunity is the key word. God is always blessing us with opportunities, but we are apt at looking this gift horse in the mouth.
As we experience the stench of suffering, the assault of lament, the offence of cursing, our practice needs to be to give our situations to the only One that can fuel us with the power to eventually flourish. Only God can do that. And God will do that if we make a habit of it.
There is only one sensible way through suffering: to go right through; to give our laments to God, dedicating them at the cross of our suffering. Given to God, our laments come back to us transformed, and we are renewed.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.