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Contrasts of life


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James Dunne writes

Of late I have found myself considering the contrast that exists in life, of struggle and suffering leading to growth within ourselves and a richer experience of life.

Last Sunday morning we reflected on the Apostle Paul’s struggle with a particular issue in his life and how God’s purpose was being worked out in that struggle (2 Corinthians Ch. 12 v 5-10). God’s response to Paul’s prayer was not what Paul was expecting, but it was one that he came to understand.

The Book of Hebrews, in the New Testament, tells us that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered (Heb. Ch. 5 v 8). We also see that Jesus suffered terribly in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross, but this was a precursor to resurrection, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and salvation being available to all.

Perhaps there is a lesson of perspective in this. I have written before of the Christian tendency to pray for escape from the storm, and the Jewish tendency to pray for strength in the storm. Current Christian culture tends to pray for a preferred outcome, making assumptions about God’s purposes rather than seeking an understanding of what God is doing.

I had a conversation with a friend last week. The conversation was about the nature of knowledge and understanding. We begin our life with negligible knowledge and understanding and over time things change. We acquire knowledge and a framework of understanding and we begin to understand our world. We find ourselves able to navigate and manage our interactions with others. Everything is rosy until we find ourselves in a situation where our framework of understanding becomes a hindrance rather than a help. Either our framework is able to adapt to the new situation or we find ourselves misunderstanding events around us and misinterpreting people’s actions. Our knowledge and understanding turns from a constructive aid to a mental prison.

The question becomes how can we escape this prison?

‘Throughout history God has used suffering to teach and reveal to his people fundamental truths. From the Exile of the Israelites in Egypt, their forty-year wandering in the desert, and their 70-year exile in Babylon, we see a pattern of failure, suffering, and restoration.

So, if we find ourselves in a situation which we experience as suffering, it may be just because we live in a fallen world. But it may be that God is in the process of deepening our knowledge and broadening our understanding.