As I read about this other person's personal struggles against sinful nature, I wanted to tell him not to give up hope in God. For in my own personal struggles, God has shown Himself to be faithful, even when I have not been. He has shown His mercies to be endless, even though at times it seems that my sins are too many. Yet, why should someone who does not even know me believe what I have to say? Why should my words be any more encouraging then anyone else's? In his hopelessness, what could I do? I am praying but somehow that seems to not be quite enough. Surely there was something I could say.
As I continued through my day, praying all the while, I found my answer as I was writing out some comments for a Bible study lesson I am teaching on today, in John MacArthur's commentary on Colossians and Philemon. I have no guarantee that the man who's blog I visited will ever read these words, but I hope that they may be an encouragement for some weary traveler.
"Suffering brings a believer closer to Christ. Paul wrote, 'That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings' (Phil. 3:10). Suffering in the cause of Christ yields the fruit of better understanding of what Jesus went through in His suffering...suffering assures the believer that he belongs to Christ....suffering brings a future reward. 'If indeed we suffer with [Christ] in order that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us' (Romans 8:17-18). 'For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison' (2 Cor. 4:17)...suffering frustrates Satan. He wants suffering to harm us, but God brings good out of it."
Page 75, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Colossians & Philemon, by John MacArthur
Now I am very aware that Paul was talking about Christians suffering for Christ's sake, as in being persecuted for their faith, but the words of MacArthur apply so well to our personal suffering. For some people what they would label as personal suffering is something no one else knows of. A secret addiction, feelings that are anything but Christlike, or maybe even depression. I know that for many people, including myself, there comes a time (or many times) when you wonder why this is your burden to bear. You beg God to take this heavy weight from you, but He does not. You try time and again to do what is right and pleasing to God, just to fail again. It becomes so dark and you become so desperate for peace that you begin to wonder if all the struggle is worthwhile. Would it not be better just to give in? God does not seem to care, so why should you slave away trying to please Him. He certainly is not helping matters any. I mean, you have cried, begged, threatened, and still He seems to do nothing. Have you ever been at this place?
If you apply MacArthur's words, and these Scriptures to you situation, and if you read through your Bible you will begin to see, that God never promised ease. He never promised to take away temptation. He said that He would be with us. In our weakness, He is made stronger, and through His strength we are strong. He will love us no matter what. We are no more sinful now, then we ever were. He will wash away our dirtiness. If we fight the good fight, we will be rewarded someday. Our every effort, He knows. And on the Cross, Jesus bore all the sins of the world. He knows what temptation is. Why should we, the sinners, feel that we should have an easier time of it then, He, the Savior. Nothing we can suffer, is more then what He suffered on the Cross for us!
Think about it. In those horrifying hours on the cross, Jesus felt all that you feel times the amount of people in the world! And you think He doesn't care?
What do we dwell upon? Our failures. Our guilt. Our suffering. It is one big pity party. The devil feeds us lies. Satan tells us we are not good enough, that we cannot overcome, that we have sinned one too many times and God does not love us anymore. We make excuses, we give a little, we give a lot, we give in. Then it begins again. The shame, the guilt, the feeling that fighting is no longer worth it. Hell must be better then this, hangs in the back of our brains, though we would never admit to such a thought. But then reality pokes up it's head and we realize that hell would be a billion times worse then all our suffering on earth, plus a whole lot
Why do we suffer? Why must some of us bear crosses that make us feel like we are the only ones in all the world who have ever had to do so, and this makes us feel like we are dirtier, more sinful then any other human on the face of the earth? I do not have the answers, and I never will this side of heaven, but I know two things. I am a sinner and always will be, and God loves me despite of this!
My prayer is that in my suffering, I may bring my Lord, Jesus Christ glory and honor. I will not give up the fight for righteousness because I know that God is real, and in the end pleasing him is all that matters. All my pain and suffering is only a drop in the cup, the cup that Jesus swallowed for you, and for me.