What’s the result of suffering? It can be bitterness. It can be dejection and hatred and anger. It can even be a depressed passivity from taking on the identity of a victim. Often I forget that God means for my pain to be useful. I begin to buy the lie that says pain is meaningless and happiness is meaningful.
We in church like to think suffering is a foolproof way to godliness when it’s even more flammable and easy to muck up as happiness (and we all know how easy that is!). More than anything, the goal of suffering is to create a deep sense of your frailty and a deep sense of God’s holiness. In a word, suffering moves and transforms you to see and feel the fear of God. You’re convinced, more than anything in the world, that you deserve to die, that you can’t stop it, and that you have no hope of securing your happiness, your safety, your anything, and that at any moment God, the divine playwright, can write you and all you love clear out of the space-time continuum.
So what does this do?
Question 1: How does this affect a person’s humanity?
It causes depth, both existential and emotional, and it makes you value things you used to disregard—like the fear of God.
And while the fear of God is a godly viewpoint, a godly worldview, necessary for everything in the Christian life, it isn’t everything—it’s just the starting point, the necessary context for holiness. If you don’t do anything with that fear, it doesn’t mean anything.
If the fear of God is the lens required to see clearly in life…
Question 2: What are we supposed to be looking at?
It’s the classic churchy answer to say “Jesus.” But it’s the Truth; albeit terribly over-simplified. Jesus is the Word of God and the Word is the everything of the universe. The logic, the cosmic glue, the “ether” of physics in which the multiple realities exist—one of which we live in and call Real—and, ultimately, the Truth. Jesus is the Truth and so when we see and find and come to know the Truth, we’ve discovered him in a way, just like discovering information about your special someone is important whether it came from his or her lips or somewhere else.
My point is, with awakened lenses and raw, open hearts, what we should be seeking is all of that. We should be seeking life-transformation by coming to know the Truth. But again, the final goal isn’t that we know a lot, but that we accept a new normal-that we act on Truth.
Our goal should be to know the Truth and to accept it as reality so that we re-train our minds and hearts to see it as Real, and everything else in disagreement as false—phony.
Don’t read Rom 8:28 and take it on faith. God intends for you to be actively involved in that process too, actively seeking to be “Conformed to the image of Christ" (Rom 8:29). I forget this. And so I write, for you and for me.