Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reveling in Suffering

The concept of "reveling" lends itself to joyous celebration. Really, that is closer to the actual meaning of the word "revel", but I can't think of a better word that means "just laying back and letting all of everything wash over you, taking it all in and finding joy in all of it."

So, "revel" it is.

Its been easy so far, because the majority of my reveling in 2012 has been the good kind. But I have been long pondering what reveling in suffering looks like.

I am largely inspired, again, by James 1:2 ..."consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work, so that you will be mature and complete, not lacking in anything."
I have often heard this verse explained, disclaiming that the writer didn't intend for us to be "giddy" over our trials. That makes sense. Even more so when you consider how much joy you can glean from knowing that you will be a better, strong person when it is all done...even if you arent "excited" to be suffering that the time.

I liken that to "reveling in suffering".

I think of myself, how as a mom I often revel in my children's suffering.

I am not giddy, happy, giggly or thrilled to have them suffer ...but I so appreciate the lessons that I know they will often glean from their "suffering".

Take this summer, for example. My family and I were at a hotel pool - my youngest was barely a year old and he was still new at walking and managing obstacles. I was enjoying watching him crawl into the water, retreat and try it again. I loved watching him choosing when to crawl on hands and knees, when to try standing, and when to do the hands and feet both on the ground.  

A bit away from the pool, but still close to mommy, he started working on a set of about small 2-3 steps. He was crawling up and down them, stumbling pretty frequently. Quite a few times he skinned his knees and fussed. He would always start right back in, never once looking to me for consolation. He mastered those steps pretty quickly, having the best and most effective system of managing them chosen and executed in a matter of minutes.

All the while I was the subject of some serious judgement by two ladies sitting on the opposite side of the pool from us. As I marveled at my brave explorer, I also noted the overt disapproval these gals gave me. They were quite vocal about how that baby would hurt himself and how I needed to get him down from there.  I took a degree of pleasure in watching them in all their judgey-ness since I knew for sure that this was the best for this particular little man.

While I didn't enjoy his suffering, I knew as a mother that it was developing something in him. He was learning with every fall, every struggle, every scraped knee. He was learning when to put his little foot here, and when to replace it with his little hand. He was learning how to avoid those tender little knees and when to use those tougher pads of his feet ...and oh was he proud! So proud.

His suffering accomplished that for him.

If I were to go the way of my own instincts and grab him up as he crawled towards those potentially knee-skinning stairs, he would have missed out on some important lessons (though surely I would have gained some approval from Thelma and Louise).

Having "everything we need" is much about moving through each and every phase of our development ...we must embrace the suffering that will surely come. We must revel in the trials that we know will achieve for us a glory that far outweighs any suffering we can endure in this place!

Having everything we need doesnt mean that we will be free of trouble, that we will have what we need "to avoid suffering" ...but to nurture a life of godliness (2 Peter 1:3).  Nurturing a life such as God deems righteous is one where our perseverance is continuously developed. Where we are building our knowledge and wisdom in God's truths with each stumble and each trial.

James could have said, "revel in your suffering, my brothers, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must complete its work, so that you may be mature and complete having EVERYTHING YOU NEED"



  1. Tough but true! Thanks for the perspective.

  2. This was beautifully written, thank-you!


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