As we are welcoming the new year of 2018, I believe I can say on behalf of all of us that we are all transformed individuals and for me, suffering has played a significant role in strengthening who I am today. In light of this, I would like to take the time to reflect on the beauty of suffering in its ability to strengthen us.
We often hear the common question, “If God is so great and loving, then why is there so much evil in this world? If God is capable of everything, then why do we suffer so much?” Throughout 2017, I have come to grasp that suffering is the most beautiful human experience. Without suffering how are our characters supposed to grow to be the way they are today? God has helped you through this suffering. Just take a minute to look back at 2017 and reflect on your greatest worries and problems. It is through these painful experiences you have gained so much strength.
Life is full of suffering and we as humans must learn to turn to God in our times of need and sin and this is the ultimate test. Are we going to turn to God OR are we going to turn away from Him, digging deeper into our hole? I’ll be honest, it took me a while to mentally reconcile with my diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 6. I’d naively think, “Why God, why me?” The very real God of the Holy Bible is certainly hearing the literal groans of the suffering people all over the world. As they, and we, are deeply humbled by the breathtaking forces of creation that God has set in motion, we begin to realise that human life, away from God, is futile. This may seem ‘cruel’ or ‘unfair’ to those who lack understanding of the power and glory that God has in mind for those who truly serve and obey Him. However, it is often the only way human beings are willing and able to learn.
As I have continually prayed to God for the past years, I have gained so much strength to make it to the end of 2017. As each insulin injection digs into my skin and with every prick of my finger, I don’t hate God or blame Him. Instead, I feel stronger, investing more in my relationship with God, building more strength, and never losing hope. It is through experiences just like this we truly connect to God. This is exactly how we should respond to life’s unexpected challenges, turning to God to guide us to the right path.
The Gospel of St John says, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).
When I reflect on this verse, I think of my hardships in the world and whether they are a reflection of God’s love towards me. It often makes me wonder, did God diagnose me with Type 1 Diabetes? No, of course not. But I can choose to either blame Him anyway OR look at it from another perspective. I can decide to instead follow Him by taking up this cross and share in His glory by participating in this suffering. You see, suffering for the Almighty God is an honour rather than a shame and I have learned to take pride in this cross of my diagnosis. It not only showcases my love for my Protector, but also gives me a chance to see God’s strengthening Hand that helps me get through everyday. To feel His strength every hour of the day is truly an amazing experience I cherish.
St Paul reminds us that, “Hope means that we must trust and wait for what is still unseen” (Romans 8:24).
It is through pain and suffering, that we feel God’s strength. Just like my example of my Type 1 Diabetes, God too places you in certain situations for a reason. Say for example, you never got any physical exercise and all you would do all day is stay in bed. What would happen to your muscles? You know the answer – they’d grow weaker and weaker, and eventually you might not even be able to get out of bed. Our muscles only become strong if we exercise them and challenge them to do more. The more resistance they face, the stronger they’ll get. The same is true for our spiritual life. If our faith is never challenged and if we never have to put it to work, then our spiritual “muscles” will grow weaker and weaker. So, when hardships and trials come into our lives, we’ll be forced to exercise those spiritual “muscles” and when we do, our faith will grow stronger.
Again St Paul teaches us, “We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). And for me, I have seen this clearly. I am here, I am breathing, I am blessed, and it is all because of Him. Prayer is always the answer. 2017 has proven to me that prayers really do work miracles. Let’s all prepare for 2018, ready to persevere for whatever life throws at us! The answer to life is simple:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).