I so appreciate a conversation I had the other day with a dear friend of mine. Anyone who knows me intimately knows that I do not profess to have already attained it but I indeed press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling. I want to press until the day of pressing is over but I, like most people I know, would not be the first to stand in line to suffer.
Suffering, hardship, trials and tragedy are not on anyone's favorite thing to do list but the more I experience and the more I learn from the Word of God I see these things are just a part of life. Theoretically, we do not seem to have a problem with this; until the suffering hits our street, family or household. The questions and accusations against the character and nature of the Holy, Sovereign, Creator speak louder than Sunday morning and Wednesday (or whatever day your congregation holds Bible study or mid-week service :-).
This is not a judgment but an observation by a fellow traveler and one who has asked many questions and voiced many complaints to God and some trusted friends. Suffering, trials, etc. whether of our making or just "happenstance" can be traumatizing and debilitating so it is not my intent to make light of them nor to try to explain every uncomfortable plight of the human experience. I cannot and I will not.
I am not God. What I can offer is that for committed followers of Christ there is a goal that hardship seeks to achieve. Look at James chapter one:
James 1:2-8 NKJV
My brethren count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
It would seem that the goal of some of the most dreaded and painful things, moments, suffering, lessons, experiences are that we will, simply put, GROW UP. It sounds a little harsh when I say it to myself but I cannot deny its truth. To be perfect and lacking nothing in the text does not suggest perfection. It does not reflect that once this particular instance of suffering is over that God is going to "reward" you with restoration of every single thing you have ever loss, with all riches and financial wealth or that you or no one you know will ever get cancer, encounter sickness or disaster. God does make exceeding great promises in the Word to God's people but God alone decides and disperses different types of "blessings" according to GOD. I am not going to promise you something I know nothing of and cannot give.
What the text does express is that the goal of trials is a Believer who is whole and complete; mature in faith and confident in God's ability and faithfulness. James suggests that enduring hardship and allowing patience to have its work in us will bring eternal reward and make us a kind of first-fruits of God's creatures. SO....what does that mean?
It means persevering through trouble, trials, suffering and hardship with confidence in the character and nature of our great and faithful God; in the authority and work of Christ and the keeping, trans-formative and dynamite power of the Holy Spirit; though we may have questions, not understand/agree or have to cry, we are and will be a picture of the best of all God created. Fully pleasing and consecrated to God by God for God.
The goal is that we grow up, maturing in God whether we receive the tangible or not. We are an offering and an example.