A few days later while worshiping at church I heard, "There will be reward for your suffering."
This then led me to the passages in James 1 and Romans 5 which both talk about trials and suffering.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything......Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:2-4, 12
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:2b-5
I find it interesting that we are called to not just endure trials, but to REJOICE in them. This goes against everything in my fleshly nature. I don't want to suffer trials. In fact, often I believe that as a follower of Christ I am exempt from them. There is even a whole church movement based on the idea that if you are having trials, you are doing something wrong. This is bad, bad, bad theology.
What the Word tells me is that not only am I NOT exempt from trials, that I should EXPECT them and be JOYFUL when they come. Because when trials come, it is an opportunity to experience more of God's maturity, more of His perseverance, and more of His character.
Sometimes we bring trials on ourselves by our actions. These trials, I believe, are actually consequences of our sin. God allows the course of our actions to come to their natural conculsion. In those instances it is not the kind of trial that we rejoice in. Those kinds of trials we, if we allow ourselves, take a good hard look at what we've done, repent, and turn from what we've done.
Some kinds of trials come because we are affected by the actions of others. We call these injustices. Sometimes things happen to us not as a result of our own sin, but as a result of the sin of others. No one sins in a vacuum. Why God sometimes allows injustices, and sometimes intervenes to deliver us from them is a subject for another post.
There is a third kind of trial, though. These kinds of trials are not just allowed by God, I believe it is clear that they are deliberately brought on by God specifically to grow us and to mature us. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken, but that which can't be shaken will remain. The Bible even tells us that God does this BECAUSE He loves us. Because He loves us, he wants us to look, act, think, feel, and believe as He does. To get that way, He has to reveal everything in us that is not of Him. Sometimes that requires the "shaking" of hardship and trials.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12: 7-11
A lot of believers, in fact, a lot of friends I know, react badly under trials. Well, if I'm honest, I react badly too. We whine, we complain, we get mad, we run away, we look to the world to help us out of the trial (or at least make it feel a little less horrible), and we either learn from this trial or we become doomed to repeat the same trial over and over until we "get it." Many a believer has turned his or her back on the Lord over suffering; forgetting that trials are there for our GOOD.
In the last two years of my life have been one trial after another. I believe that much of this is from the hand of God. And so, I have hope. I have hope that suffering produces fruit. I have hope that God does not disappoint. I have hope that while this life is full of pain and suffering, in the next life I will see reward for my disappointments and my yeses to the Lord in spite of circumstances.
Out of curiosity, I looked up some information about coal and diamonds and here's what I found:
Coal, graphite, and diamonds are all made out of the same element: Carbon. The difference is that the carbon atoms have to be re-arranged into a new pattern.
Graphite (coal) has the atoms arranged where they are connected on horizontal planes, but not on vertical planes (think of a stack of papers....the atoms are tightly linked in each sheet of paper, but the stack itself can easily be knocked over..this is why graphite is a lubricant, because these sheet easily slide around on each other).
Anyway, to change their atomic ordering into diamond requires high heat and high pressure. The heat breaks down the current bonds to free up the carbon atoms, and energize them to bond covalently (very tight atomic bond formed by sharing an electron) and the pressure helps the carbon atoms form in an ordered and tightly packed fashion...the result is the atoms are re-ordered into a pattern that looks like pyramids stacked together (each pyramid connected at four points with its neighboring pyramid), and it is now diamond.
May my life be a diamond on Jesus' crown, and may HE receive the reward for my suffering.