Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Suffering Spouse and Sanctification

"Our pride must have winter weather to rot it."  Samuel Rutherford, The Loveliness of Christ

Starting a new year in a constant state of suffering is quite sobering.  Is this what the new year holds for me?  Is this what the next decade (or even longer) will hold for me?  Well, maybe.  And maybe that's not tragic.  Seriously.

Reflecting on suffering and happiness and the Christian life leads to a realization that the Christian should expect suffering in this life because the goal of this life is to be made more like Christ.  It is to grow and change and become more like Him.  The goal here is not happiness.  Oftentimes when we are most 'happy' we are not really being challenged to change or grow--we tend to just coast along, forgetting to pray, forgetting to strive for holiness.  But this is not our home.  We are travelers and this human life is temporary--just a breath in the span of eternity.

C.S. Lewis, in "Letters to an American Lady" empathizes with and encourages a female correspondent throughout her daily trials of life.  He constantly directs her thoughts to heaven, reminding her that we shouldn't be so focused on our personal happiness in this life.  What particularly struck me in my reading of this little gem of a book, was Lewis reminding the lady of her choice between Crosses.  The context was choosing to live alone in her old age, or living in an 'old folks home' with a bunch of cantankerous senior citizens.  Both are hard. Lewis says:
"It is (no disguising it) only a choice between Crosses.  The more one can accept that fact, the less one can think about happiness on earth, the less, I believe, one suffers.  Or at any rate the suffering becomes more purgatorial and less infernal."

If you are a Christian and you desire to grow in faith, then you will (must?) suffer.  And that then leads to very, very good things-namely, becoming more like Christ.  It means becoming more kind, more patient, more loving, less selfish, less proud.  During trials and times of suffering, keep in mind that for the Christian, life often involves a choice between Crosses.

I encourage you to reflect on 1 Peter 1-4.  He deals much with suffering.  It is challenging to me to start this new year with a deeper understanding of the purpose of trials in this life.  I want to suffer well, as a Christian should.  I want my suffering to have a good purpose.  I want to honor God in my suffering.

"For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.  For what credit is it if, when you are *beaten for your faults, you take it patiently?  But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.  For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness-by whose stripes you were healed.  For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." 1 Peter 2: 19-25

*beaten is referring to slaves during those times--no woman should stay in a physically abusive relationship!  But think of this challenge--to suffer patiently (and remember that our suffering is much less that those in this context) without reviling our aspies when they hurt our feelings.  Rather we should be loving them with much patience.  Then we will be honoring God in our suffering.

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