I heard a powerful sermon series the other day from a pastor who was teaching at our church while I was down in Chihuahua, Mexico. The subject was suffering. The world, and especially our society in America, flees from suffering. I can understand that - discomfort, hard work, pain, death - these were all part of the curse Adam's sin brought on the world. Of course we'd want to run from that.
Isn't it awesome how God takes a curse and twists it around? Adam had just handed the world over to Satan, and God's already got a plan for fixing it. Jesus took the punishment of the curse when he died on the cross. Yes, there's still suffering, but now it's beneficial to those who know God through Jesus. Suffering now serves God's plan to draw us closer to Him, make us more reliant on Him, and fill us with His power.
The gist of the sermon series was this: not only is suffering necessary for the growth of the Christian, but we should actually be pursuing it because that's what we're called to do: share in Christ's suffering and rejoice to be counted worthy. We will be rewarded, both now and in the next life.
I'm glad I heard the sermons when I did. Bonnie and I are going through a rough time right now (nothing major, not like the difficulties some of you are going through). I trust God that we will come out of this more reliant on Him; and in that reliance, we'll see His strength and power through our weakness and helplessness.
You probably just think I'm weird (join the club), but if you're interested, the sermon series can be found here: