Recently, (and I can’t remember if I had this in any of my previous posts or not…) I’ve been reading and discussing A Path Through Suffering with a beautiful sister in Christ. It’s been one of the most beneficial series of moments in my life ~ talking about suffering, discussing His Word and having a weekly meeting with someone else to talk about life with.
Reading this book in general has given me a better understanding of what suffering is for a Christian and what we should do with the suffering we experience. That’s the thing… we experience it. It in itself is something we GO THROUGH. It’s not something that happens one day and you’re perfectly fine the next. It’s something that occurs and you’re actively suffering. Each day we suffer in some way and we have these little “deaths,” or little inconveniences, or yet, the choices we have to make – choosing God and dying to self or choosing our own way and trying to hold onto our life.
Suffering is meant to bring us closer to God. It glorifies Him in how we respond and react to the suffering He allows. He doesn’t enjoy or rejoice in our suffering, even if He does have a purpose in giving it to us. It’s a gift we have. A gift of opportunity. An opportunity to grow and become more faithful to Him.
If you haven’t heard of Elisabeth Elliot or read any of her work, I’d encourage you to look her up! After reading A Path Through Suffering, I ordered four more of her books (to get me started…) haha.
I’m not going to go into great detail with the book (I know, it’s still long lol), but I did want to point out some things from my notes that really stuck out to me about suffering and our spiritual growth. Since I’ve been working on some study questions for this book (since there’s not a study guide for it out there currently), I’m going to include (quite) a few of the questions here as well and maybe they’ll help you think deeper on your own about Christian suffering.
There is a necessary link between suffering and glory.Preface
There is death in all of creation. Creation/nature is how God teaches us things about ourselves. If there’s no death, there’s no growth. Repeatedly throughout her writing, Elliot talks about the dying to self we must go through to be our new creations in Christ. It’s not a one time event; it’s continuous and every day we are making small (or sometimes large) choices to die to ourselves and choose the way of the Lord. Continual affirmation in the small things, like little inconveniences or deaths.
The easy way, a way of no suffering – of not going through anything, is not a life God wants for us because there’s no growth.
You can’t endure if you don’t go through anything. You can’t build endurance for a later time and experience what God has planned for you right now if you don’t lean on Him and His Word.
The further we travel on the pathway to glory the more glorious it becomes, because we are given to understand that every glad surrender of self, which to the young Christian may seem such a morbid and odious thing, is merely a little death, like the tree’s “loss” of the dead leaf, in order that a fresh new one may, in God’s time, take its place.Chapter 2
How we handle the small inconveniences helps us with the big inconveniences.
Becoming a Christian means submission to God, which almost always, in one way or another, means submission to somebody He has put over us.Chapter 3
Here is consolation for us when someone sins against us: God sent it, and God meant it – for good.Chapter 3
Chapter Three was so good y’all. It just really hit me. I’ve highlighted two quotes above, but a visual that’s painted in one of her citations is this:
The path God has for us is north and south. Our stubbornness and pride leads us east and west. The consequences of this is a cross. The cross is of our own making.
What a visual that is, for me at least! Maybe it is that way for you, too! When we make choices, if of our own plans and desires we start going east and west, when we start going the way of God, we’ll begin on a north and south path that leads to righteousness.
A lasting trend through this book, and something that many American’s may find hard to grasp especially is that suffering is necessary, not senseless and is always for our good. It’s a pruning by the gardener – cutting away the old, dead parts so the fresh, new fruits can blossom. It’s for our growth. How we respond to the pruning is a testament to our maturity in Christ. Perhaps, the more experiences you go through or how you’ve responded to traumas even will give you that maturity to leave the old and give room to the new. With pruning comes joy – with pruning we see the tenderness of God when we let go of fear and clean to trust in Him.
For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.Romans 5:17
But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.Acts 2:23-24
When bad things happen we tend to say that it’s Satan at work and forget that God’s been working all along.
Do you trust the skill of the Gardener? Are you afraid of what you’ll lose? The hurt?
There’s an importance of living each event. Each moment is for a purpose, handed to us by God. If we aren’t living these events, we’re denying the pruning and growth that God offers us. How do you build up endurance if you never endure through suffering?
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.Galatians 2:20-21
He asks our acceptance of the painful process and our trust that He will indeed give resurrection life.Chapter Five
If we endure hardship, we will reign with him. If we deny him, he will deny us.2 Timothy 2:12
There is no perfect way in suffering or experiencing what God has for us – we are not perfect so what we go through will not be either. What you’re striving for is growth. Growth > Perfection.
Acceptance of the will of God means relinquishment of our own. If our hands are full of our own plans, there isn’t room to receive His.Chapter Nine
All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.2 Corinthians 4:15
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.2 Corinthians 1:3-7
As someone who has been through suffering, it’s comforting to know others who have experienced similar things in life – someone to talk to, find relief in and just be able to share in the suffering with. Not everyone can do that if they themselves haven’t been comforted.
God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places, This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.Ephesians 3:10-11
Acceptance and relinquishment are the keys to our peace.Chapter Fourteen
She explains four steps to dealing with suffering of any kind in her book.
- Recognize it
- Accept it
- Offer it to God as a sacrifice
- Offer yourself with it
And since we aare his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.Romans 8:17
All that the world so desperately seeks the Lamb won, not by aggression but by surrender. That is the principle of the cross. It takes the weak and makes them strong. It takes our sin and bestows Christ’s righteousness. Out of bondage we are made free. Darkness is overcome by light. Loss turns into gain.Chapter Twenty-Six
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.Romans 8:18
In your current suffering, do you recognize any unforgiveness within yourself that be unresolved or unaccepted?
In what ways has obedience shown you how suffering is required for growth?
Think about what may need pruning in your life today and how, when the pruning occurs, it will benefit your relationship with Him. if you’re not sure what may need to be pruned, as is typically the case, ask God to guide you and open your eyes to it.
What scripture(s) come to mind that help you remember the glory that is yet to come at Jesus’ second coming?
What attribute(s) of God do you see through your trials of suffering?
Do you see relentless challenges as oppressive or as opportunities to make much of God?
How does 2 Corinthians 8:9 help you be more of a giver for others’ sake rather than yourself? Are you willing to be humiliated, mocked, or at least viewed as different, in order to give?
What can you do to prepare for great suffering that may come your way?
Have you seen people search for a perfect world on earth? What keeps us from having the peace that God promises?
What attribute of God would remind you to have a joyful acceptance of the hard things that come your way?
How does Paul’s statement in Philippians 3:10 encourage you to continue in suffering? Why should we not search out suffering?