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Isn’t that the question we all ask ourselves in our  Thin Within journey?  Whether we’ve been involved for one week — one month — one year — or even longer . . .

“Why is this so hard?”

“This is just too difficult for me.”

“I want to quit!”

“Is all this struggle really worth it?”

One reason it can be so difficult –>  We make it that way!  Plain and simple — we are stubborn!  We don’t want to let go of what we’ve known and enjoyed for so long.  Whatever holds us has become our “best friend”.  Who wants to say good-bye to their “best friend?”  When our “best friend” is food, we go to the “frig” when we’re lonely, bored, angry, sad, frustrated, or without answers in difficult situations.  Our “best friend” hugs us and says, “I can make you feel better.  I can relieve the stress.  I can give you pleasure in the midst of your mess. I’ll give you a break from all this!”  The relief is a temporary break from what will still be there after we take our last swallow.  Our “friend” is very deceitful.  But we love our “best friend’ anyway, because SOME relief is better that NO relief.  So — we remain stubborn and cling to our “best friend” like it’s the only friend we have.

This rebellion is something we must confess to our Father and repent of — plain and simple.  We’ve done no less than replace our TRUE “Best Friend” — God Himself — with a powerless substitute.

So — let’s say we do go to God in confession and repentance.  We bare our souls to Him and repent of our “idol.”  We know deep in our hearts that we REALLY want to “kick this thing.”  The question  still remains:

“Why is this so hard!”

Even when we are totally on board with God and desire to obey Him fully, the process can be full of ups and downs, great victories, and shameful failures.  Why?  If God sees we are “really trying and really want to get this right,” why doesn’t He bless us with a wonderful miracle and take the struggle away permanently?

Christ Himself could relate with us.  He asked God the very same thing.  He knew the road to “doing the right thing” was going to be paved with unbelievable pain and suffering.  And He asked God to bring salvation to all men in another way:

“My Father, if it is possible,

may this cup be taken from me.

Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Matthew 26:39

Why did God make Christ suffer to bring the final glory?  Why did that have to be part of the process?  And why is our road to glory paved with suffering at times?

Suffering breaks the power of sin.  1 Peter 4:1 says, “. . .he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”  When we see the struggle that sin causes us as we move to repent of it, we realize it’s power.  It DOES have power, if we let it!  But Christ’s death broke that power downand any power we give to sin is of our own doing.  To tell you the truth — the struggle makes me angry!  It doesn’t make me angry at God, or Satan, or even me.  It makes me angry at sin’s power.  It makes me SO angry in the struggle — that I want to do away with sin’s power over me for good!  I want to “take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”  (Philippian 3:12)  I get stubborn in a new direction and want to “be done with this thing” once and for all!  Suffering can cause that kind of stubbornness and lead to final victory.

Suffering is a means of God showing His glory.  God could do an instantaneous miracle.  He has the power!  And — sometimes He does choose to do that.  But more often, He works slowly and shows Himself in the midst of suffering — to be faithful and true to His promises.  This is what builds our faith and confidence in Him — the experiences of seeing God work in the ordinary circumstances of life.  This is where He meets us and shows His greatest love.  Sure — He could perform mighty miracles everyday, but would we not become so de-sensitized to Him that He would become nothing to us?  In time, I really think this would be our reaction.  Look at the Israelites and all the miracles God did on their behalf.  They still found plenty of time to grumble and complain.  Very little character growth took place!  Suffering is the stage on which God’s glory is displayed in the everyday lives of His people.

Suffering is where God does so much to transform us!  An overnight miracle would make no permanent character changes in us.  It would just make us greedy for more miracles.  We would soon rely and even expect the next miracle — taking Him for granted and loving Him less and less.  He would stop being our loving Father and start being our “magic genie.”  Where is the love in that?  Our God would not tolerate it!  He knows a “slow trickle” of grace is the best way for us to grow and transform into the person He has planned for us to be.  He also knows we do our “best growing” little by little in the ebbs and flows of everyday life.  Those seasons of suffering are bringing permanent transformation.  No suffering — very little transformation.

Suffering is God’s workbench.

Having said all this — I still don’t like suffering any more than the next person. Fighting to say “no” to the rest of the beef enchiladas on my plate because I’m already at a “5” — and denying myself chocolate cake with ice cream when everyone else is having a beautiful plate of it — is not my idea of a great night!  But —

  • because I can experience a triumph when I know sin lost the battle this time.
  • because I can give God glory for — once again — doing something I could not do without Him — and tell others about it, too.
  • because I can grow just a little bit more each time I say “no” —  knowing that self-control gives birth to perseverance and perseverance gives birth to godliness.

I can handle the struggle!  God is at work!

“. . .let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,

and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,

who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame,

and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1b-2

We can endure the struggle, because there is the promised joy ahead.  We can even take joy IN the process, knowing that God knows what He’s doing in us.  It may be hard — but it is ALWAYS good!

How About You?

Do you experience moments where you think the suffering is not worth the goal?  Does the power of sin makes you stubborn enough to desire to suffer in order to be “done with sin?”  In what ways has God shaped and grown your character through the suffering? Are you willing and anxious to give testimony before others of how God has graciously helped you in your Thin Within journey?