Productive Suffering

Jesus, you say your burden is easy and light, yet I feel like I bear the weight of the world on my shoulders each day and I'm constantly failing.

I prayed this prayer out of desperation and God answered me. He reminded me that I'm not the first one to struggle like this, and I won't be the last. He reminded me that I'm not alone. 

"But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed." - 1 Peter 4:13

What's even better is that He reminded me that the struggle is not for nothing. It's productive. It's producing fruit in my life that will ripen and bloom in the perfect season to reveal God's glory so that I can look back and know that He is good. 

"Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings knowing that the suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." - Romans 5:3-5 

I know, we covered this scripture in the last blog, but God's not done teaching me on this one, which means I'm not done writing about it. 

Just as a runner undergoes much suffering to train for the race, so your suffering makes you stronger. Physical training involves the tearing down of muscle so it can be rebuilt stronger. It stands to reason, then that spiritual training involves the tearing down of your spirit so we may turn to God and be made stronger. 

An athlete does not give up on their training because they know it's producing results. They can see it in the muscles built, pounds lost, speed and strength gained. But it doesn't happen overnight, and they have to be diligent and consistent. It takes a lot of hard workouts and sore muscles before they start to see results.

Don't give up in your seasons of suffering. It's a productive season. 

[As a side note, I don't mean productive in the "busy" sense that out culture has become so focused on. It's not about doing for God, producing things and stuff to prove how strong our faith is. Rather, it's about God producing the fruit of His Spirit in our life. Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming!]

It's harder for us to see the spiritual gains like an athlete sees muscle definition, but you can ask God to show you. He will be glad to!

When you ask Him, start looking for the ways your struggle is strengthening you and let the God of love fill you with hope at the sight of it. 

If you're struggling with anger, let it produce patience.
If gluttony and self-indulgence, let it produce self-control.
If anxiety, let it produce peace.
If depression, let it produce hope. 

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith..." - Hebrews 12:1-2a

To be clear, we don't produce these things on our own either. The Father is doing the work in us. We just have to humble ourselves and let Him. 

All of this brings to mind a children's song that talks about what to do when you're struggling with anger or selfishness. This is how the chorus goes:

Just tell it to Jesus, he already knows.
Tell it to Jesus before it grows. 
We all mess up, it's sad but true,
that's what human beings do. 
Just tell it to Jesus, cause He loves you!

I know it may seem a little silly, but there's some good truth packed in those lines. Right now, in your struggle (because I know we're all facing something) tell Jesus about it. Ask Him to show you how He's strengthening you in this tough season, and let the love of God fill you with hope.

I would love to hear your testimony of how God is working in your life in the comments below!

"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." - 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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