I have never heard anyone say, “The really deep lessons of my life have come through times of ease and comfort.” But I have heard strong saints say, “Every significant advance I have ever made in grasping the depths of God’s love and growing deep with him, has come through suffering.”
This is a sobering biblical truth. For example: “For Christ’s sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). Paraphrase: No pain, no gain. Or:
Now let it all be sacrificed,
If it will get me more of Christ.
Here’s another example: “Although he was a Son, Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). The same book said he never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). So learning obedience does not mean switching from disobedience to obedience. It means growing deeper and deeper with God in the experience of obedience. It means experiencing depths of yieldedness to God that would not have been otherwise demanded. This is what came through suffering. No pain, no gain.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn gives a moving account of his religious awakening through suffering. The love, patience, and longsuffering of persecuted Russian believers had always impressed him. One night, as Solzhenitsyn lay in a prison hospital bed, a Jewish doctor, Boris Kornfeld, sat up with him and told the story of his conversion to Christianity. That same night, Kornfeld was clubbed to death while sleeping. Kornfeld’s last words on earth, writes Solzhenitsyn, “lay upon me as an inheritance.” In another place he says, “It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good…Bless you, prison, for having been my life.” (Credits to Philip Yancey, Christianity Today, Oct., 1984).
Samuel Rutherford said that when he was cast into the cellars of affliction, he remembered that the great King always kept his wine there. Charles Spurgeon said, “They who dive in the sea of affliction bring up rare pearls.”
Do you not love your beloved more when you feel some strange pain that makes you think you have cancer? We are strange creatures indeed. If we have health and peace and time to love, it is a thin and hasty thing. But if we are dying, love is a deep, slow river of inexpressible joy, and we can scarcely endure to give it up.
Therefore brothers and sister, “Count it all joy when you meet various trials” (James 1:2).
Preparing with you,