…for my suffering.
I suppose that suffering–be it personally experienced or simply observed–is one of the primary reasons people abandon God. So often it leaves the afflicted asking, Why does God let this happen?
Certainly the 1st-century new-Christian Thessalonians were asking that question as they endured civil persecution at the hands of unconverted Jews and pagans. So who better to answer their question than the apostle Paul, a Christian who had been wrongly imprisoned and physically assaulted by powerful men on multiple occasions. The apostle Paul, a once-powerful man who had done the wrongful imprisoning and physical assaulting of Christians on countless occasions.
His life–both before and after he recognized Jesus as the Christ–was consistently shaped by suffering, be he the oppressed or oppressor.
Paul wrote that strong and constant faith yields suffering. Then suffering yields strong and constant faith:
In the grip of much persecution and affliction, you’ve stood firm in your faith and have persevered. Your sufferings prove that God’s judgment is right! The result: your sufferings have made you worthy—worthy of the kingdom of God, which is the very reason why you are suffering in the first place! (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5, The Voice)
Paul is writing about suffering from an eternal perspective. He assumed the Christ would return within his lifetime, so he saw no distinction between the mundane and the divine.
After 2 millennia of waiting for His Second Coming, most of us no longer think this way. We don’t equate the suffering that results from miscarriage with an eternal battle. But we should.
Most of the physical, emotional, psychological, and even spiritual sufferings we endure as Christians can be beneficial. I consider the many years David and I spent failing to deliver babies. Those sufferings changed us not because we didn’t get what we wanted, but because we learned (the hard way!) to trust God’s plan for our lives. Even when it was contrary to our own plans.
So on Thanksgiving (and every day), I will make the choice to be thankful for my suffering. I will try to remember that suffering refines my faith. Instead of blaming Him for making me feel low, I’ll thank God for showing Himself to me when I need Him most. I’ll trust that He is growing my faith so I can be more useful in His great redemptive plan for humanity.