The other day, one of my professors gave a short devotional before our discussion on the Symposium. What he said was directed towards students, but I think it can be encouraging for anyone. The venerable doctor began by reading the first few verses of 2 Corinthians 6, which I have transcribed for you here:
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. – 2 Corinthians 6:2b-8a (ESV; emphasis mine)
Too often, we try to grab the reward without the work. We want to live for God before we’ve died to our selves. Paul sets the record straight. Endure suffering, and the good things-knowledge, patience, genuine love-will come along with it. As the venerable doctor put it, “There is no free lunch in God’s economy; even salvation, which is free to us, came at a great cost to Him. It cost Him His Son.”
Now, I’m not saying that we can earn good things through pain nor am I saying that God’s grace isn’t sufficient. God can certainly shower us with blessings without us suffering first, and sometimes He does. The question is: “Why doesn’t He do it all the time?” Part of the reason, I think, is that we’re just not ready for it; we’re still too weak to experience God’s goodness point blank, no-holds-barred. Instead, being all-knowing and providential, God hands it out to us in measures, allowing us to suffer in order to build our character. The best things in life are the things that were the most difficult and took the longest to reach. It’s hard to remember that while the pain lasts.
So, maybe you’re stressed, sick or, like me, you’re in school and the paper that’s due soon seems decades away from completion–I’ve got a hunch (I can’t say how or why) that it’ll all be worth it in the end. And don’t forget, it’s not all bad! We’ve done the dying, but there’s also the living…but that, I’m afraid, is a topic for another day.