I have a friend who praises God every time she stubs her toe. She has been developing a habit of speaking praise instead of a curse whenever she experiences suffering, even for small things like stubbing toes. This challenges me. It has taken time for me to look this challenge in the face, but lately, I have been finding myself turning towards it. I have by no means grasped the full weight, nor practiced to the fullest extent of this truth, but my understanding of suffering is being changed.
I am beginning to believe that suffering is not an affliction as I have been convinced for so long. In reality, the way we receive suffering will change how we perceive our situation. If suffering is received as an affliction, a burden we must be rid of as soon as possible, then our attitude will be one of desperation. But if we receive suffering as a gift, our perception would be drastically changed.
A gift of suffering may not sound pleasant, but think of the products (spiritual and sometimes also physical) of suffering: strength; purification; deeper roots of contentment, joy and faith; etc. *I believe that God is in complete control of our circumstances. I believe He is the source of ALL things. Accordingly, I believe that the events in which we suffer are from Him, but the choice to wallow in discomfort or to accept a wound from a friend as better than a compliment from an enemy is up to us. God will not choose our attitude for us, but He will transform our minds, and I think our hearts too, into ones that are able to receive suffering without despair.
God will, if we ask Him, transform our minds to conform with that of His Son Jesus Christ, who was led like a gentle lamb to the slaughter, knowing that His suffering would be the reconciliation of many to God. Jesus did not suffer His death without anguish - physical, emotional, and spiritual - but He did receive it as a cup from His Father.
The mind of Christ knows that nothing can pluck us from God's hands or separate us from His love. It knows that we may be pressed, but not crushed; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. It knows that no weapon forged against us will prevail; that in this world, we will have trouble, but that Jesus Himself has left us His Peace that we may be where He is, resting at the right hand of the Father. The mind of Christ knows that God works all things together for those who love Him, and that those who are persecuted for righteousness sake are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them!
Therefore, let us pray for the mind of Christ in the midst of our suffering, that we might receive it with expectation as the gift it is.
* Feel free to disagree with me on this or any other point. All of my opinions are, of course, debatable.