Last Sunday I preached on suffering, and it hit a nerve with a bunch of us. If we believe that - in our suffering - God is after something deeper than we are after on our own, then we must ask the question: do we believe that what God is after is really good for us? Our conditioned answer to that question is "yes," but if we are honest we might not be so confident.
This gets to a really fundamental component of Christianity: Does God want to be a piece of the pie? Or does God want to be the whole pie? In other words, does God just want "so much" of me? Or does God really ask for all of me?
See if we think that God is just an add-on to our lives then we get very bothered when He starts poking around in areas that we have not invited Him. And when we suffer we just want God to stop the suffering...we do not consider that God may actually want us to experience hard times, so that the harder work of faith and character development actually happens. The Bible says that God is all about growing our character, refining our thinking, maturing us, deepening our faith. This means that the life of Christian will likely be hard...and yet there are passages in the Bible that tell us that life in Christ will be easy. (Matthew 11:28-30) Well, which is it?
To answer that question, let me quote a portion of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis:
Is Christianity Hard or Easy?
Christ says “Give me All. I don’t want “so much” of your time and “so much” of your money and “so much” of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.”
The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves’, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good’. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way—centred on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown.
"Ploughed up" and "re-sewn" doesn't sound comfortable. It sounds to me like suffering, but it is often exactly what is needed for me to be what God has designed for me to be... it is ultimately for my good and for God's glory.
Do you believe it? If you do, it will change the way you face your suffering.