Disclaimer: I've been finding it extraordinarily difficult to finish my thoughts lately, so take these as they are... unfinished and imperfect.
Have you learned how to suffer well? As in, are you good at suffering or are you bad at it? If you ever are given the choice to be good at suffering or bad at suffering, I urge you to choose the first.
What a strange question... And what a strange response... Wouldn't you want to be so inexperienced in hardship that you would have no choice but to be bad at it? I mean, if you are pretty good at suffering then you've probably really gone through it, and nobody wants that; am I right?
I can probably distinguish if you are good at suffering or bad at suffering by asking you one question:
"What do you seriously, and honestly dwell on the most in your suffering?"
Or maybe better:
"Is your suffering about you or is your suffering about something greater?"
When you suffer, are you constantly looking at yourself, your situation, and your pain, or are you looking up to the Father, pleading for the Spirit to comfort you, begging Him for His nearness, and honoring Him in your thoughts and conduct?
I think that's a really big deal. Are you honoring Him in your thoughts and conduct? Consider that for a moment. Are you dishonoring others in your suffering? Are you refusing to forgive someone for your suffering? Are you disrespecting anyone... like... even in your thoughts? If you're going to honor the Lord you are going to love one another even when it's hard...er.
If you are going to suffer, which you will, choose to suffer well. Choose to suffer in a way that glorifies Christ greatest. The way I see it, I'm going to hurt anyway; I'm going to suffer anyway; I'm going to experience pain anyway- but the ways in which I conduct my thoughts, my words and my actions are going to be leveraged so much so that I might glorify Christ as much as I possibly can in my situation. I am going to honor Christ in my thoughts, my words and my actions. And I'm going to do that as much as I freaking, humanly, possibly can... by the grace of God. Besides, it's not about me anyway. My joy- not about me- about glorifying Jesus for His grace; my pain- not about me- about glorifying Jesus for His grace. I'm going to suffer either way, so am I going to suffer and glorify Christ as much as I can, or am I going to sit back, and just wait to feel better? I'll tell you one thing, sitting back and hoping it goes away definitely has it's enticements. It's easier... in one sense. It's easier in that it takes less effort. It takes a lot less effort- physically, emotionally, and mentally. It's easy to sit back and feel bad. It's easy to think about all the negative things. I mean, if you sit back and think about how horrible everything is it's a heck of a lot easier to justify not handling things well.
"So if you are suffering according to God's will, keep on doing what is right, and trust yourself to the God who made you, for he will never fail you."
1 Peter 4:19 (NLT)
But if you're going to suffer well, sitting back justifying not handling things well isn't an option. You've got to start honoring the King of Kings. You've got to stay strong and keep doing what is right. You've got to start suffering in a manner that pleases the Lord. When you take your situation and you throw in, "Hey how can I leverage this to glorify God most?" well, that changes things. Because that's what you're called to do. You are called to fear God, and honor Him, and to obey Him. Yeah, your situation may be a major let down, but you have a responsibility. You're not really responsible for fixing anything, I mean, you can't really control a lot of things... some things, sure you can, and some things you really need to take serious action on, but a lot of times, you just can't control anything. The only that you have to control is how you choose to handle the stuff life throws at you. I hope you choose to handle those situations with grace and benevolence.
But here is the kicker. If you're going to suffer well it's going to require so much work. To think about the positive amidst the negative it so incredibly difficult. How do you think about the sun when all you can see are the clouds? How do you stand on a rock when you don't feel like the rock is even there? How do you walk on water when you remember that there's a storm all around you... and since when is anyone even able to walk on water? Since Jesus came along. Since that one time that you realized there is a powerful and mighty God who is there even when the sun is gone and is a rock even when you can't see it and is able to make men do things that should by all means be completely impossible.
I've learned something hard.
I can't deny hurting. I mean, we've all seen better days. Sometimes I think about being angry. Sometimes I think about being bitter. Sometimes I find myself wanting to get caught up in everything negative. But I've learned to fight back. Sometimes you have to fight against everything inside of you and choose instead to think about the faithfulness of the Lord in the middle of the storm. It' not easy.
Here's the only application I could muster up right now: watch your words, and your actions, and your thoughts. And do something about them.
It's easy to dishonor someone so quickly with your words. It's so easy to put someone down, whether right to their face, or behind their back, or even in your head. It's incredibly easy to build up bitterness in your heart toward someone when you let your thoughts run rampant. It's like war, in your mind sometimes.
But by the grace of God I've learned that it is far better to take captive those things and choose grace... because others need it and probably because I need it so much more.
Choose not to dishonor others. Choose words and thoughts of grace. Because this is what you are called to. You are called to honor everyone. As you do this, you honor the Lord.
Remember this: When you suffer well, you honor the Lord.
You're going to need the Spirit- to comfort you, to heal you, to intercede on your behalf, and to grow you more into the image of Christ. So plead for Him... and pray often to be filled by Him.
You're going to need the mind of Christ- brothers, sisters, the mind of Christ is in you, by the Spirit. Have you any idea how incredible this is? The mind of Christ in you. Let Him rule your thoughts.
You're going to need to get rid of a lot of yourself- Esteem others higher. Love them well. Show them Jesus in you.
Honor the Lord. Bless His name. Bring Him glory. Be a delight. It's my prayer for me. It's my prayer for you.