THE CROWN IN THE STRUGGLE

Posted by Nathan Warner on

“Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

I’m sure there were a lot of healthy, wealthy, and “wise” teachers that people were comparing to weak, distressed, and difficulty-prone Paul.  There is a tendency in the Church for us to view Believers who are struggling through difficulties as “problem” Christians or weak Believers.  And those who struggle cannot help but look at their difficulties as failings when faced with their “potential.”  It can make us feel “poor in spirit” when we reflect on what we “could be” or “could have been,” or how we “derailed” God’s plan in our lives. 

Many Christians seem to feel that a life without difficulty equates to spiritual maturity while a life with difficulties means they’ve “got problems.”  Perhaps their spouse is not a Believer, perhaps they struggle with something (an addiction, a difficulty), or maybe they have a health issue.  Maybe they just need help and it makes them feel like second-class citizens in the Kingdom of Heaven.  This is dangerously unhealthy as it pushes the Believer to seek self-help while making no room for Sanctification.

Just like Eliphaz, these Christians would join him in chiding Job that the innocent do not suffer (Job 4), and they would shake their heads at that Jesus from Nazareth who was obviously “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4b).  How dangerous this attitude is in the Church!

In a similar way, some Christians hold onto their “spiritual heritage” like it’s a pure-bred pedigree.  These are Believers who have come from a long line of Christian forbearers with an attitude that the Church is “their house.”  This attitude can make them look down on people who have come to Christ later in life, don’t come from Believing families, have unbelieving children, or are married to non-believing spouses.  They fully ignore the circumstances of the men and women who made up the Line of Christ!  In looking down on Believers who have struggles, they say “things would have been different if you only had made different decisions.”  Now it is true that the decisions we make have profound implications on our lives, yet, we should understand that our own lack of difficulties, trials, or “weaknesses” is entirely because of God’s grace and is through no effort of our own—as Paul is trying to explain, it is the very struggles we go through as Believers in life that give glory to God through His power at work in us. 

God uses where we come from and everything we have done in His Sanctification process, making us more like His Son in the friction between the clay and the potter’s fingers.  This is in no way making excuse for sin and bad decisions.  Job had no power over his suffering, and he suffered, not because of any sin he committed, but because of God’s greater plan.  We also know that Jesus suffered in innocence for God’s greater plan: “He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:3-4).  And we as Believers share His sufferings: “For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:5).  May we reflect that the very gifts Christ will give us are forged in the difficulties and trials we endure in life.

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