“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
WE OUGHT TO DEFINE AS GOOD ANYTHING THAT DRAWS US CLOSER TO GOD. Most things are good in some ways and bad in others, but if the overall result of a thing is that we are drawn closer to God, then we’d have to pronounce it good. We shouldn’t complain about anything that enhances our hope of heaven.
It should be obvious, but we often overlook it, that whether we see something as good depends entirely upon our value system. If the here and now is our main concern, then values like “ease” and “pleasure” will be primary and anything inconsistent with those values will be seen as bad. As Christians, however, we judge things by a different standard, and based on our values, we often welcome things the world rejects, and vice versa.
If God is our main concern, nothing will be more important than drawing closer to God. Spiritual growth will be our ultimate priority; it will be the value against which we measure everything else. In short, whatever is conducive to spiritual growth is good, and whatever hinders spiritual growth is bad.
Many of the things that are conducive to spiritual growth, however, are painful to experience. Are we prepared to give thanks for the experiences that make us grow? Well, we should. As Christians, we should find ourselves expressing gratitude for many things the world goes to great lengths to avoid. Turning worldly wisdom upside down, Paul said, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” And James said, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2,3).
So we have a choice. We can back away from suffering or we can welcome it. But having made our choice, there will be consequences. If we make mere pleasantness our priority, we won’t grow in godliness. That result can only come from the other alternative: the patient endurance of hardship. We can’t have the result without embracing the means that lead to that result.
“It is the fire of suffering that brings forth the gold of godliness” (Jeanne Marie de la Mothe Guyon).