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"Then He told them what they could expect for themselves: 'Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You are not in the driver's seat -- I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Believe me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?
"'If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I'm leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when He arrives in all His splendour in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn't, you realise, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their very own eyes the kingdom of God.'" Luke 9:23-27 (The Message).
In the context of His own impending suffering, Jesus laid out clearly before the Twelve the way of a disciple. Once again it's all about letting Him lead. What does that mean? How do we interpret the circumstances of our everyday lives, especially when things are tough or uncomfortable or even tragic? Is He leading only when the days are sunny and the way smooth? That's what we tend to think, and we give the credit to the devil when things go wrong.
Could it be that Jesus is leading, even when we don't like what's happening? It's really all about trusting Him, isn't it? My journey with Him had been a long one, over 57 years to date, and it has taken me a long time to realise that He was leading every step of the way, through success and failure, through financial struggles, the loss of a child, a stormy marriage, divorce, homelessness, starting a new business, and having to pick myself up and carry on on my own.
Jesus gives us the key to using our difficult times to our advantage, not wasting them blaming the devil and becoming angry and disillusioned with God. He said, 'Don't run from suffering; embrace it.' That's it! Our attitude to our hard times will make all the difference between wasting them and having to go through them over and over again, or embracing then and being refined like gold in the fire.
The writer to the Hebrews recognised hardship as God's way of disciplining His beloved children. "My dear child, don't shrug off God's discipline, but don't be crushed by it either. It's the child He loves that He disciplines; the child He embraces He also corrects." Hebrews 12:5b, 6 (The Message).
Does that mean that God deliberately makes life difficult for us? No. We live in a fallen world where bad things happen to good people as well as bad people. Our troubles are sometimes the result of our own bad choices and sometimes the result of other people's bad decisions, but God brings good out of the worst of circumstances if we trust Him.
Why does He allow stuff to happen? Why does He not cushion us from trouble and suffering? I think that one of the big reasons is that, when we are bumped, what's inside of us comes out. God's plan is to "bring many sons to glory" (Hebrews 2:10); and He does it in the same way as He prepared Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice for our sin; through suffering.
He has to get rid of the thoughts and beliefs and attitudes that belong to our old sinful, selfish natures. Difficult times, issues with people, physical and emotional suffering expose what's in our hearts. If we turn these things over to Jesus, He will cleanse and heal us and move us towards being mature sons and daughters instead of immature brats who are always needing diapers changed and noses wiped, always demanding, and always throwing temper tantrums when we don't get our own way.
"Don't run from suffering; embrace it." Treat it as a friend, not an intruder. You will be on the way to being released from your old selfish self to becoming "a chip off the old block", following and imitating your Master.
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