At church today, Pastor Scott talked about suffering and trials. It was based on James 1:1-4.
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
At YAF (Young Adult Fellowship) Sunday School afterwards, we talked about the passage and delve deeper into the passage. Dan brought up a question: how do we define suffering?
It was interesting as different perspectives came out and we went on to gain a better sense of why we go through trials. When you think of the term suffering, it seems so... extreme. 'Suffering' invokes an image of extreme pain and sorrow in my mind, 'trials' less so. When I think of suffering for the gospel, I think of those in underground churches in Asia, who are being persecuted for their faith. I think of lynchings and hangings. I think of burning at the stake. I think of the pain and suffering of Jesus, who died for our sins--my sins. Who literally had the weight of all the world's sins on his shoulders. But trials? I think of a puzzle, honestly. I think of a maze, something that can be beaten, something that is meant to be overcome.
Then Dan brought up the fact that there are two types of suffering. There's the suffering that comes from the consequences of our sin and the suffering that comes from a God-driven life.
1 Peter 2: 18-22
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.
An example of the former would be where someone was greedy and bought up a bunch of property in 2002 to make a lot of money. Then when the housing bubble collapsed, that person went through a financial crisis and was struggling to make ends meet. Was that person's suffering a trial that would produce steadfastness? Or was that person's suffering a result of his greediness and sin? The latter suffering is one that comes from pursuing a lifestyle that is driven by conviction of faith. For example, when one shares the gospel with co-workers and gets mocked. That is a righteous suffering.
It definitely got me thinking more about the topic, especially since Jade brought up the point that there shouldn't be a comparison of suffering. Like sin, it's not fair to say that my lying is less of a sin than a murder. Sin is sin. Likewise, suffering is suffering. God looks down on my suffering and does not compare my suffering to someone else in Asia or Africa. He recognizes my suffering, no matter how insignificant it may be in the broad spectrum of things.
On a slightly different, yet somewhat related note, I'm starting to read "Kingdom Without Borders" by Miriam Adeney. Stephanie brought up a good point, in that I should do something useful with my idleness, for it is not good for man to lay idle for too long. As it relates to suffering, the book is about global Christianity and it will tell about the trials and suffering of my brothers and sisters in different countries as well as their blessings.