Note from the Pastor
“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance;” - James 1: 2-3
“Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” These verses out of the book of James are ones that give birth to the idea that God puts obstacles in our way in order to make our faith stronger - that God pushes us just a little further each time, like some sort of sadistic trainer at the gym demanding one more set or one more rep, because it is when we push our bodies past our limits that we are able to grow and increase those limits.
While that may be true in the training of our bodies, there is a fundamental flaw to this idea when applied to faith. The analogy makes God the cause of suffering. We may not like to actually say the words “God caused the suffering,” but we do like that it lets us off the hook for the question of meaning.
When we face a tragedy, the loss of a loved one for instance, we always get around to asking, “Why?” We try to find some meaning in it. We hope that some greater good will come from the pain we are feeling because then, at least, the pain wouldn’t seem so worthless. And so we convince ourselves that God has caused the suffering in order to make us stronger or to give us the experience to handle some future crisis. When our son passed away from leukemia, for example, people tried to ascribe meaning to our pain by asking us to just imagine how good we will be at ministering to families going through the same thing.
The problem is, God is never the cause of our suffering. When we suffer, it is not at God’s hands, but God’s hands are present all the same, because God is in the redeeming business and wants us to be employed in redemption as well. Pain and suffering are part of life. What we do with that pain and suffering is up to us. It’s up to us to give it meaning, to redeem that pain and use it to strengthen us. That means not shoving it into the corner of our mind about God someday using it, but actively seeking ways we can put that pain and experience to work building the kingdom of God.
So count it all joy, friends, when the trials of pain and suffering come, because they can be redeemed and used to make your faith stronger, if you are willing to join God in the redemption business.
Redeemed and redeeming,
Don’t forget to check out the “Grace Cubed” podcast wherever you get your podcasts, or go to www.anchor.fm/gracecubed
Cherry Hill United Methodist Church