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This Life: Learning to have pure joy in seasons of suffering

Sitting under the Cross

CHARISSA CHEONG says that when we face trials – as Jesus did – it is often a sign that God is doing a great work…

London, UK

Sitting under the Cross

PICTURE: Jussara Romão/Unsplash 

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since He did not spare even His own son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else? – Romans 8:31-32 

This is an incredibly uplifting verse in what is perhaps one of the most encouraging passages in the whole Bible. But as I was reading it recently through the lens of having gone through some pretty trying times in life, one sentence in it suddenly struck a different note with me.

“Since He did not spare even His own son.” I’ve previously skimmed over this part of the passage and focused more on the “but gave Him up for us all”, but this time, the significance of the first half of the verse took on a new weightiness in my mind. Jesus was not spared from suffering. The Son of God, who was one with the Father, was made to suffer on the cross for God’s good plan of salvation. 

 “Jesus was not spared from suffering. The Son of God, who was one with the Father, was made to suffer on the cross for God’s good plan of salvation. “

There is a line in a song by the Christian music group Hillsong, called Worthy is the Lamb, which describes the crucified Jesus as “The darling of Heaven”. Though Jesus was so righteous and so dear to God, He had to suffer. 

I’m currently reading the book of Job, where again, we see a man who we are told is completely “blameless” in the eyes of God, being made to suffer in atrocious ways. It’s not that God was displeased with Job or trying to punish him. In fact, when Satan comes to God after patrolling the Earth, God practically recommends Job to him as a good candidate for being put to the test, because of how pleased He is with him: “Have you noticed my servant job? He is the finest man in all the earth.” (Job 10:8) 

It’s pretty hard to believe, but trials are often God’s vote of confidence in us, not His vote of disapproval towards us. When we face trials, it is often a sign that God is doing a great work, and that there will be great victory on the other side of our suffering. 

It is hugely offensive to my sense of logic and rationale that the book of James tells us to “consider it pure joy” when we face troubles of any kind. And yet, how true this statement is. 

It’s not those far from or disinterested in God who face trials and testing of this kind, it’s His darlings. The ones so close to Him, who are seeking Him wholeheartedly, that He chooses to allow to pass through difficulty, in order that He may strengthen our character and use us for a good purpose. 

The Bible is loaded with verses and stories that show us that trials, suffering, and discipline can be used by God for our benefit and for His kingdom purposes. Even in Romans, we are told just one chapter prior to the above verse that we are heirs of God’s glory with Christ, but to share in His glory, we must also share in His suffering. 

God lets His beloved children suffer on this Earth. Jesus says in the Gospels that in this world, we will have trouble, and that can be a hard pill to swallow when we’re really up against it in tough situations and can’t see a way out.

But in every season of difficulty, we can hold onto the truth that Jesus has overcome the world. He too, has been through extreme difficulty in bearing the sins of the world on His shoulders, a kind of grief and pain that no-one else on Earth has ever known, and yet, He came out on the other side. 



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