I work at being a writer. I practice each day and read the works of others and study the craft and have a curious mind when it comes to words and the working out of language. But within my old school pen or modern age laptop there is not any magical power or tendency within the equipment to ‘write’. They are only tools and cannot labor by themselves without the writer taking them up to work. The tools do not create or produce even a letter without being taken in hand.
So if glory is the work of suffering, is there any merit in affliction, sufferings and troubles?
Does God barter eternal glory for a toothache, family troubles, poverty, lack, widowhood, old age? We dismiss that immediately if we know even the beginning truths of God’s plan of redemption that Jesus is the only way to eternal life. God does not invest affliction with any degree of merit and certainly no ‘magic’ power to earn glory. Affliction works for us like my laptop and my pen. There is no merit in the keys that type the letter. The merit is in the hand of him that strikes the keys into an order. The efficacy lies in the strength and skill of the writer.
In this same way, affliction works. It is an instrument in God’s hand. It is the spade that turns the soil, the sheers that prune the branches, the sickle that reaps the harvest, the typewriter keys that strike the paper and write your story in His story. Affliction worketh out in us glory.
Have you recently had a severe family trouble? There is a saying, “A mother is only as happy as their saddest child.” We suffer with our children maybe more than they suffer. But have you been able to weigh the Lord’s dealings with you? Have you seen the effect of those trials upon your soul and what spiritual profit have you reaped? Can you find in these troubles any fruits of the spirit?
No. Huh? There’s not a greater love when you are in lack? A kinder heart when you’re being slandered? A greater patience in that third round of chemo? A stellar self-control that pushes aside even a snarl as you deal with back pain?
Then you are more like me and ‘woe, is me’ when suffering starts. We can find ourselves blowing up balloons of self-pity and having a woe-is-me party before we even see how we’re responding. If you’re critical of that then beware the seat of scoffers.
Trials test us.
They prove out what is real in us and sometimes the first fruits are spoiled, rotten. In the prequel to The Glory series, you’ll see this illustrated—Honey Cooper, a faithful cowboy, acts more like a rank bull when his world gets rocked. Believers don’t allows act out what we believe.
Often our flesh rises up and acts out first when we encounter suffering.
Afflictions can bring out rebellion, peevishness, fretfulness, self-pity, unbelief and even despair. Troubles can cause a tantrum that would put a two year old to shame. Most of us are not sanctified enough to say at the start of suffering, “This is my comfort in my affliction, for your word has quickened me;” or, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn your statutes?”
Our initial response can often be immature, but God. But. God. Works in us. His hand is upon the spade turning over the dirt and the typewriter keys guiding our story. Spirit fills us when we are upon the floor in an exhausted heap from our tantrum and words become prayer, supplication, confession, desires. Our first whispered, “Help me, God,” begins our cooperation for this sanctifying suffering working to make us more like Christ.
Our heart, too often, is so full of the world that there is in it little room for Christ until He himself drives out the intruders and prunes away the rabbit trail branches that lead to comfortable fruitless lives.
Affliction in his hands, and especially spiritual affliction, convinces us of the sin and emptiness of loving the world. It embitters us to its temptations and loosens our heartstrings to its pleasures.
We don’t understand the power sin exercises in our carnal mind. What strongholds it builds. We are blind to its destructive fruit. What a need there is for a fierce, furious love of God to go to war in our behalf against an enemy we often ignore and disregard or even flirt with. Christ is a jealous dominate lover of our souls. He will tolerate no rivals. We are fools to think Him mean. Harsh. Uncaring. Strict. Or worse, far away. He is with us. Here. In this suffering, trouble, affliction, mess. And he is working. Working. That’s the key action.
I AM is working.
He is God and He is a hater of sin and a lover of His own. And He, is working in us. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10)
We need His discipline to teach us the folly of our ways and assure us that nothing, nothing, nothing save Christ is eternal. We need his corrections to convince us that abiding and thriving is the holy way to glory not sufficiency and striving. We need Him. This Jesus. With his scarred hands, evil’s wounds now victories scars. What love is this? That God would show us how to suffer well. What hope is this? That the cross, a torturous death device, worked out our salvation. What faith is this? That we are promised a result from affliction; Glory.
And as God is the saints’ glory so they are His. Glory. It is all His.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor 4:17-18
Want to learn more, read The Glory Series, parables about God’s glory expressed in contemporary fiction.