I’m glad you’re reading this today because despite what you’re going through now, I feel that this message will prepare you for a season or two that is ahead if you can’t relate to it right now.
At times obedience can be super hard. Not just because of our sin, but because our circumstances are hard. I want to focus on suffering and obedience because as we are trying to be obedient, it can also feel like suffering. There’s obviously different degrees of what suffering is or how others would define it, what I’m talking about is any time that you’re going through pain, distress, or hardship. That could for example, having a husband that works long hours, a difficult relationship (family or friendship), or just navigating parenthood.
There are all kinds of hard things that occur in our lives where God is asking us for obedience, where he is testing us, and we don’t completely understand what he is doing in that moment. We can feel forgotten or overlooked, but a lot of times thoughts like that can be causing more acute questions and feelings about our relationship with God.
I mean, reading throughout scripture, just about every story had some kind of suffering. We were promised suffering as Christians so we shouldn’t be surprised when it does come our way because we live in this broken world. But also scripture tells us that suffering can produce a lot of blessing in our life. It can sanctify us and bring us closer to God. Something that prepares us for heaven. Suffering is this thing that we don’t love that we know is going to happen, but at the same time, it can end up being an amazing gift.
Think of it this way: when you have a grape vine, the vines grow out so big and most times into bushes. It can grow out so long, get bigger and bigger. It might look pretty, but still produce no fruit — it’s when it’s almost dead that the fruit comes. They literally have to think that they’re going to die in order to produce fruit. You have to viciously prune these things back, cutting them back to where you think you’re killing it. I think that that is a good analogy for what obedience looks like, especially in suffering. It feels like death. It’s so hard, and I think it’s because what we’re doing is killing our own natural desires, fleshly wants — we’re killing our natural self.
We are replacing old desires with renewed, redeemed, sanctified, gospel-drive desires. God says, "I am making all things new." He is doing that in ourselves, in our hearts as we walk through difficult paths. I think about Matthew 7:21 "Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Not the one who does their own will, it's the one who does the will of his Father, the one who does the will of God. It's the person who says “yes” when what they really want to do is say “no.”
When we’re taken out of our comfort zones and placed into unknown territory so-to-say, that’s when your obedience is tested. We are given the chance in those moments to have a happy heart and choose Jesus whenever something devastating happens that is big and implodes our worlds. Those are the opportunities God gives us to die to self in order to be make new in Christ.
I believe that in our suffering, it really shows us how weak we really all are and how we really need to lean upon God. It lowers our knees to the ground and makes us really aware how we need time with God and we need to pray and ask for his wisdom.
It’s easily revealed in our responses how mature in Christ we are.
Are you giving into the suffering or are you acknowledging that this is the pruning before the fruit is produced?