By Liu Xuena
In our real life, almost every one of us enjoys comfort and fears about experiencing suffering. If these two living environments were displayed in front of us for us to make a choice, few people would choose the latter, because we all enjoy life of comfort. However, is what we choose more beneficial for us?
One day, I read a little story like this: Two brothers went to look for happy life together. On their way, they met a witch and an angel. The witch said to them that they would get whatever they wanted and live a rich life if they followed her. The angel said that their will would get tempered and then they would have faith and perseverance in face of difficulties and become the strong ones in life if they followed her. The elder one was fond of comfort, so he chose to follow the witch, while the younger one followed the angel. Surprisingly, the elder one, who had had a comfortable life and enjoyed the wealth and luxury, died of deep depression of fearing death under the age of thirty. Whereas, the younger one took the advice of the angel and joined the army to defend his country. Afterward, although the environment was perilous, he relied on God and performed well in repeated battles, in the end, he received the title of “war hero” as well as support and respect of the people. Besides, a beautiful wife was bestowed on him by the king, and then they spent a happy life together.
From the story, I understood: Comfortable life is not necessarily a good thing and environment of suffering is more beneficial for us. I recalled the following historical facts in the Bible: When God was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, because He commemorated Lot’s righteous deeds, before the destruction He sent the angels to tell Lot and his family to run up onto the mountain and never to look back. The meaning of it was for them to forsake everything for the sake of their life. But Lot’s wife looked back and thereby turned into a pillar of salt and lost her life because she still clung to her family property and comfortable life. In addition, Luke 18 records that a young and rich Jewish ruler asked thehow to gain . The Lord told him to sell everything he had and distribute the money to the poor and then come to follow Him. After hearing this, the young man left with sorrow because he had great possessions and he could not bear to give up, missing the chance to enter the Kingdom and gain eternal life. These people ultimately lost the blessings and promises of God because they reveled in comforts.
Miserable environment may sand off our natural character so that we won’t act according to our flesh; miserable environment can also temper our faith so that we can learn to rely on God and be blessed by God. Recall the time when Moses was a prince of Egypt, he lived a comfortable life and did not experience any suffering. Naturally, he was full of hot blood and always depended on his naturalness to do things, incapable of shouldering the heavy burden of leading the Israelites out of Egypt. After forty years of tribulations in the wildness, his temper was ground away, and he no longer relied on his temperament, good intentions and enthusiasm to do things. At the same time, his also increased and only then was he capable of assuming the heavy burden of leading the Israelites out of Egypt. And so was Job. When he underwent painful trial and lost his priceless family possessions and all his children, not only did he not complain to God, but his true faith and obedience toward God increased after the trial. And then he was called righteous by God and ultimately God appeared to him and bestowed double blessings on him. It was through experiencing different kinds of environments in suffering and tribulation that they bore those fruits and testimonies.
God says: “When God works to refine man, man suffers. The greater a person’s refinement, the greater their love of God will be, and the more of God’s might will be revealed in them. Conversely, the less refinement a person receives, the less their love of God will grow, and the less God’s might will be revealed in them. The greater such a person’s refinement and pain and the more torment they experience, the deeper their love of God will grow, the more genuine their faith in God will become, and the more profound their knowledge of God will be. In your experiences, you will see people who suffer greatly as they are refined, who are dealt with and disciplined much, and you will see that it is those people who have a deep love for God and a more profound and penetrating knowledge of God.”
“Only in suffering can lessons be learned, which means being able to gain truth, and understand God’s intention. In fact, many truths are understood within experience of painful trials. Nobody says that God’s intention is known, that His almightiness and wisdom are understood, that God’s righteous disposition is appreciated in an environment of ease or in favorable circumstances. That would be impossible!”
God is the Lord of all creation. He knows best what we need and what environments can form our faith and increase our knowledge of Him. Therefore, He always creates different environments to temper us according to our needs, so that in these difficult circumstances, we can find out our shortcomings, inadequacies and corrupt dispositions. And as a result, it causes us to be willing to let go of ourselves, obey God’s rule and arrangements, and conduct ourselves and deal with others according to His word. Thus, we are qualified to inherit God’s blessing and promise. If we always live in a comfortable environment without trails and refinements, our heart will gradually stray away from God. And owing to our craving physical comfort, it is easy for us to be depraved, live in all manner of corrupt dispositions, and follow various evil trends. Ultimately, we will be devoured by the evil trends and our lives will be forfeited.
For example, some people have a successful career, drive a nice car and live in a mansion in the lap of luxury, living a rich life that they desire, yet they are still not satisfied. For the sake of gaining more money and higher status, they plot against and deceive each other and even end up with committing crimes. Some people live in comfort and are empty and depraved, so they develop extramarital affairs so as to fill the emptiness in their hearts, which makes their family break apart. From these we can see, comfort is not necessarily a good thing, and suffering is not necessarily a bad thing for us. Although we will suffer physically, suffering can change our corrupt disposition, temper our will and improve our faith, so that we can become stronger and braver, not easily influenced or restrained by all sorts of people, matters and things but capable of facing life calmly and doing great things. Therefore, when we encounter difficult circumstances, we should not be afraid of or avoid them, but come before the Creator to seek, and surely He will lead us to cross the barrier and gain more.
Do not revel in licentiousness because of comfortable life or complain because of sufferings. Face life calmly and obey the Creator’s arrangements, and only then can we live a happy life!
» Further reading on Sermons on Suffering page: