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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Thankful for the Struggles in Life?

It is genuinely hard to be thankful for the struggles of life as long as we are in the middle of them. Struggles often hurt and injure us. They cause us to doubt; they steal our strength. Continuing faithfulness often makes us look foolish to others.

Job's wife thought Job should simply curse God and get it all over with. She couldn't stand seeing her husband in his pain. He had lost his children, his wealth and his health. What was there to live for? This is exactly what Satan told God that Job would do if he was allowed to take away those things that people count precious. However, Job did not curse God.

Somehow Christianity has become a means of making life better. Sermons tell how we can become better leaders, more successful in our lives and better off financially, socially, maritally, intellectually or any other ally. It seems that Christianity tells us that faithfulness will ensure a struggle free life. The message seems to be, "Just get yourself back on track if you start to go through a struggle and you will find yourself better off than you have ever been." This is not the story of those who are faithful in the Bible.

Paul spend a significant amount of his ministry in prison. I really don't think he thought that prison would be better than being free. The early disciples were afraid of being arrested, persecuted and martyred. Some saw their fellow Christians placed on poles, set on fire and used for lighting in Rome. They were used for sport as wild animals tore them apart. They could lose everything because they remained faithful. They would not have agreed with many of the sermons we hear today. They would have known that faithfulness could get one killed.

The rain falls on the righteous and unrighteous. Bad things happen. It is important that we remain faithful during those bad times. The result of the struggle will bring significantly positive changes to the Christian if he remains faithful.

Peter says that these bad times will not last. They will either result in going to be with our Lord in heaven or they will end. The Lord will step in and do things in the faithful Christians life. He will perfect that Christian. The struggle will have broken the Christian in many ways. Job had both his finances and family broken. God restored those things. He gave him children and finances. His brokenness was made complete again.

God will confirm the faithful Christian's faith. Talk is cheap. Saying you believe in the church where everyone will agree with you is not much of a witness. Saying you are a believer and continuing in that faith when you are struggling changes both the world around the Christian and the Christian.

Struggles steal from a Christian's strength. It is hard to get up each day after your spouse asks for a divorce. It is hard to look for a job after you have looked for so long. It is hard to keep praying when your child won't have anything to do with you or your faith. God brings strength back to the believer when the struggle ends. He makes them stronger than they were before.

God establishes a new foundation for those who have been faithful. Israel balked at going into the Promised Land initially. They would not remain faithful for they had a weak foundation. Joshua takes a new group of Israelites into the Promised Land. He takes them because they have had a strong foundation created because they have been in the wilderness nearly all of their lives. The struggle made them strong. God does amazing things with those whom have built a strong foundation.

Yes, you will go through struggles. No, struggles do not come only if you are unfaithful. God takes the struggle and brings you through it.

When does He cause the struggle to end? When it has done everything you need.

I don't think I will ever be thankful for struggles while I am going through them but I am finding myself increasing thankful for them when they are over. I am different more from my struggles than from the good times. Thank God He has used them for His glory!

1 Peter 5:10 (NIV)
10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

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