"Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God" (1 Peter 4:1, 2).

One of the greatest deceits in the American social/cultural/political perspective: "God wants me to be happy." Of course, "I" decide what will and will not make "me" happy.

(Please understand happiness is an extremely difficult, complex discussion. This is a discussion of a general principle, not an unusual situation.)

Consider one point. Begin by noting (and confessing) our arrogance as a culture and a nation. What people are so arrogant as to put in their constitution the right to pursue happiness? (Have you wondered how much that perceived right factors into personal expectations?) What country dares to be so arrogant as to determine its political policies on this basis: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" (We are to determine what is best for a nation on the basis of subjective personal desires?) Thus, if we do not have everything we want, an undefined someone else is to blame.

God's goal is to move us in His direction. Satan's goal is to move us further from God. In the beginning God provided for our ultimate desires and needs. Near the beginning Satan deceived us with promises of pleasure. Suffering was not part of God's provisions. Satan's deception produced suffering, enormous loss, and pain.

Even though pain was the consequence of deception, our incredible God uses deception's consequences (pain and suffering) to guide us back to Him. The greatest blessings in our past came through the honesty of pain, not the deceptions of pleasure.

Our most valuable lessons learned from experience are lessons we learned through pain. That does not mean we want to visit those painful circumstances again. It means we learned life's choice lessons from that pit of suffering. It means our pain and suffering can become God's constructive tools.

The greatest blessings we have in life (mercy, grace, forgiveness, redemption, purity) were produced by God through suffering -- Jesus' experiences in death. The greatest hopes we have in life (physical death not being "the end" and the joys of a world of righteousness) were produced by God through resurrection -- God through Jesus is more powerful than physical death.

The issue in suffering and pain is not, "How can I be happy and endure this?" For the Christian, the issue in pain and suffering is, "How can my pain be God's helpful tool?"

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 8 August 2004

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