2 Corinthians 4:16-18, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
Your light and momentary troubles are achieving something. What Paul is saying that all suffering has purpose and if it has purpose it has meaning.
C.S. Lewis said, "We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
We saw how true this was after 9/11. Millions flocked to Churches. Bible sales went through the roof. A decade after the tragedy that brought so much suffering New York, a media saturated culture, a mostly nonChristian culture, pollsters have found a change in the spiritual climate of that city. A report that came out in 2011 said, "Researchers say the faith of New Yorkers changed significantly from September 2004 to January 2011. Their religious behavior (like going to church, reading the Bible, and praying) started to steadily increase." (10th Anniversary Study: Faith in New York Since 9/11, The Christian Post). For the world suffering has the purpose of driving them to God.
But for we who believe suffering has a more profound purpose. James tells us to, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4). Suffering can do many things to us but the one thing it never does is leave us the same. Over and over the Bible talks about suffering as a refiner's fire that purifies us, that changes us in ways that are impossible any other way. It changes us for a purpose.
A famous evangelist told the following incident: I have a friend who in a time of business recession lost his job, a sizable fortune, and his beautiful home. To add to his sorrow, his precious wife died; yet he tenaciously held to his faith -- the only thing he had left. One day when he was out walking in search of employment, he stopped to watch some men who were doing stonework on a large church. One of them was chiseling a triangular piece of rock. 'Where are you going to put that?' he asked. The workman said, 'Do you see that little opening up there near the spire? Well, I'm shaping this stone down here so that it will fit in up there.' Tears filled my friend's eyes as he walked away, for the Lord had spoken to him through that laborer whose words gave new meaning to his troubled situation. (Daily Bread)
As we come to the holiday season for many of you it intensifies your suffering. It reminds us of the empty chair around the table. It shows us our depleted bank account. It magnifies the loneliness of our quiet days. Though there are not easy answers to why you are suffering, though you may have to wait till heaven to fully understand, all suffering has purpose and because it has purpose it has meaning.
Prayer: Father, during this time of year so many hurt. Will You be a comfort and shelter for them in their pain and suffering? Will You draw close to the suffering and afflicted? Will you open our eyes so we can see them in their suffering and lend prayer and encouragement? You love us. Help us to love You even when we suffer. In Jesus name, amen.
[Today's thought adapted from: Giving Thanks in Spite of Thanksgiving. Listen to full message at: www.arvadachristian.org/sermons]