May 18, 2013

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Romans 5:3-5

climbingI have a bicycle ride that I think of as my little hill of pain.  This ride has a short span of road that is only ¾ of a mile long but it has three switch-backs and a continuous grade of over 10%.  We recently rode the ten miles out to this location of personal affliction and then up my little hill twice.

Oh, how I suffered.

On our initial ascent, I was very quickly down into my lowest gear and standing on my petals in a personal battle with gravity.  The grade is unrelenting and with each foot of elevation gained my poor legs increasingly voiced their displeasure.  In my desperation not to tip-over, I began to zig-zagg across the width of the road in a pathetic attempt to find some relief from the vertical grade of the road.

When I got to the top, I was a mess.  My feet were a little numb, my thighs stung from way too much lactic acid, my calves were threatening a massive cramp, and my lungs felt like I had just cooked them over a campfire.  I found a nice easy gear that allowed me to spin away my nausea as I joined my riding buddy.  He was riding back to me in annoyingly good spirits and asked me the question that I knew he would ask, “wanna do it again?”

The look on my face was sufficient to convey my displeasure and caused my buddy to laugh at me.  After a few more moments of spinning, my lungs were once again capable of powering words.  I explained to my compatriot that there is a difference between wanting to and knowing that I should.  I did not really want to ride up that hill in the first place but I knew that I should ride back up that hill.  It would be good for me.  So, we turned around, raced down the hill, and experienced the joy of hill climbing one more time.  It was worse the second time.

71472755_0Climbing hills on a bicycle is just not very fun.  It is particularly not that much fun when you are training to climb hills.  The reason I go out to this particular hill of pain is because I have a hope for July of this year.  There is a ride called the Four Summit Challenge.  It is a ride over to two ranges and then back again.  The total ride has 5,714 feet of vertical climbing over 72 miles.  From what I understand, it is an absolutely beautiful ride.  I am looking forward to it.  It should be a fun day.  However, I do not have a lot of hope in being able to do that ride unless I can get some climbing training in before July.  I will not be able to enjoy the beauty of that ride if I am in agony.  Therefore, I am training on hills.

The key to climbing is to understand that it has less to do with what is going on with your muscles than it does with what is going on in your melon.

My little hill of pain is training me mentally just as much as it is training me physically.  I know that by being able to recover in a couple minutes that I can physically ride up this hill.  I have the physical endurance and strength to do it.  I am now working on the character to do it.  There are a variety of times when I was climbing my hill when I really wanted to put my foot down and end the discomfort.  I could stop it at anytime by just lowering my foot and admitting defeat.  However, I would never make it to the top of the hill if I gave up.  I would never attain what I am hoping to attain in July.  Suffering on my bike makes me stronger and gives me endurance; endurance gives me confidence and builds my character; character allows me to hope; without hope I would never try anything.

Suffering is just a fact of life.  No one likes suffering.  If you like suffering for suffering sake, then you are a little bent in the head.  However, suffering is unavoidable.  Everyone will go through difficult periods in their lives of varying degrees and durations.  Since going through some form of hardship is guaranteed, then we should determine beforehand what we are determined to gain from it.

We are promised that our souls can benefit from suffering but that gain is not guaranteed.

The reality is that suffering has caused many people to quit on their faith.  It has caused many to give up on their hope.  Hardship has resulted in some putting their foot down and stagnating in their faith for years.  Suffering is not just about enduring until life can get back to normal.  Life may never get back to normal for some. Trials are given to us to mature our faith in a way that only difficult times can do.  Suffering trains us mentally.  I don’t want to diminish physical pain and heartache, but the implications of suffering to our faith come from how we approach it in our minds.  Suffering can cause us to grow in our faith if we fight the battle of the mind.

We will probably go through struggles in this life that are beyond our strength.  God did not give you specific trials because He knows you have the strength to handle them.  They are given to us to teach us that we do not have the strength to carry them on our own.

“You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”
Corrie ten Boom

Suffering causes us to seek strength outside of ourselves.  God has promised to be our strength when we have no strength.  His strength is all that we need.  A lesson of suffering is that we should not be living in our own strength at any time, much less when we face hardship.  The strength to endure is never in question for the child of God, who is trusting in their Lord, because we have a source of unlimited strength from our Father.  Suffering forces us to draw strength from beyond ourselves.  Hardship trains us in how to rely upon God for everything we need, including the strength to endure in difficult times.

Therefore, our challenge is to not give up. 

This is where character comes in.  Suffering sculpts our character.  Suffering teaches us who we can rely upon when the going gets tough.  The character of a child of God, who has been trained by suffering, is formed by faithfully following Christ through pain, discouragement, loss, and tears.  Their hope is grounded in a character that knows that they don’t have to put their foot down no matter how bad it gets.  They are confident that they will have all the strength that they need, when they need it.  They know that their Savior will be with them through all the pain and anguish; that He will never leave them nor forsake them.  Their faith can survive anything; they can endure anything because their hope is secure.  The Savior is sufficient.

Suffering teaches us that our hope is attainable.  How can you be confident that you will persevere to the end?  If you have never suffered, than your confidence is theoretical.  Suffering puts theory into practice.  Suffering shows us that our hope is not a fool’s dream.  It grounds us in the confidence that God can and will bring us to glory and we have the strength to fight the good fight to the end.  It is when we have endured through hardship that we learn from the practice of our faith that nothing can pluck a child of the King from His hand.

If you are currently blessed with a period of tranquility, then prepare yourself.  Determine in your mind now, to make the most of the suffering when it inevitably comes.  Prepare your heart to be trained and taught by hard times.  Draw your strength from God in the good times so that you will be ready seek your strength from Him when you need it most.  Stack the kindling of the goodness of your Lord and His word around you now so that when the darkness of trials come, the Spirit can ignite the treasures stored in your heart to be your beacon in the night.  Learn to recognize your Savior’s voice on the mountain top so that you can follow His whisper through the valley.

If you are enduring hardship at this time, then may I encourage you to lift up your eyes to your Lord and cry out to Him.  He is faithful and He will give you the strength that you need.  He can sustain you in your weakness.  He will sustain you for He loves you.  Don’t give up.  Don’t put your foot down.  He is sufficient and He will turn all the suffering you are going through into something gloriously good.  Hang onto the only one who can sustain you.  Don’t give up; Don’t put your foot down!

“Hardship often prepares ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”
CS Lewis

PRAYER: Lord, I don’t want to suffer.  Father, you know that I don’t want to go through trials and tribulations.  However, I know that You will never leave me and You will never forsake me.  I know that You will give me the strength that I need, when I need it.  Forgive me for living in my own strength.  Lord, prepare me for the trials that I have ahead of me.  Teach me how to rely upon You in all things, at all times.  Prepare me to suffer well to your glory.  Help me to be a beacon while I walk through dark times.  Thank you for the assurance that it will be well with my soul no matter what the future holds.  I praise  you O’ Lord and pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.


  1. I’m currently teaching a Christianity Explored course to some Christians who want to understand their faith better. At the beginning, the course asks, “If you could ask God one question, what would it be?” They all want to know about suffering. We have discussed it, but this is a great perspective. I’m going to print it out for them to keep. Thanks so much, as usual.

  2. AMEN! What a great post! Thank you for your words of encouragement and hope!

  3. I needed to hear these words today…thank you…

  4. I always enjoy your blog. Such meaningful teaching on many levels. I’m nominating you for awards.
    I was touched. Wait! I am blessed! Twice in one week my blog talkkindnesstome was nominated for an honorary award. One is the Sunshine Blog Award and the other is the Super Sweet Blogging Award. Now I’m thrilled to be spreading this encouragement and joy to you. I hope it isn’t cheating to nominate you for both awards. I’ll include the ‘rules’ below so you can pass it on and feed your favorite bloggers a healthy dose of enthusiasm.
    The Sunshine Blog Award
    The rules of the game are as follows:
    1. Link back to your nominator.
    2. Add the award image to your page.
    3. Share 7 facts about yourself.
    4. Nominate 5–10 other blogs (and let them know).
    My nominator for the Sunshine Blog Award is Miss Sunshine herself. http://sunshinescrapbook.wordpress.com
    The Sunshine image is
    Seven random facts about me
    I have been blogging about 7 months. My blogs are all about encouragement for each day.
    I don’t like evaluating anyone’s work or actions.
    My passion is writing and education.
    My goal is to live out my passion by writing online courses and blogging.
    I love working and the thought of retiring gives me hives.
    I’ve been happily married for 42 years and still going.
    My purpose: Live your life in such a way that those who don’t know God will want to know God because they know you.
    Now here is the rule-set for the Super Sweet Blogging Award
    To accept the award I have to do five things:
    Thank the nominator for nominating me. Thank you, thank you, thank you arianazuber! http://arianazuber.wordpress.com/

    Answer the 5 Super Sweet questions
    Include the Super Sweet logo in this post. You’ll see it below.
    Nominate other bloggers for this award.
    Notify my nominees on their blogs

    1. Thanks
    Thank you arianazuber! I really appreciate your kindness.
    2. Here are the Super Sweet questions:
    Cookies or Cake??? – I love cookies the most! I especially love snickerdoodles.
    Chocolate or Vanilla? Most definitely vanilla. I love vanilla bean most of all.
    Favorite Sweet Treat? My favorite sweets cinnamon rolls.
    When Do You Crave Sweets? I don’t crave sweets often, but after a big meal is when I crave them the most. Go figure. I think it’s because a big meal is usually consumed with family on a holiday and I don’t want it to end. Having sweet desserts extends the time.
    Sweet Nickname? Janie

    3. Super Sweet Logo

    4. Now for my Sunny and Sweet nominees. And because I couldn’t decide which award was most fitting, I’m nominating these for both awards. I’m very, very bad at choosing favorites.


  5. JD, You are an amazing writer, and your insights into God’s word are equally so. I LOVE how you said, “Stack the kindling of the goodness of your Lord and His word around you now so that when the darkness of trials come, the Spirit can ignite the treasures stored in your heart to be your beacon in the night. Learn to recognize your Savior’s voice on the mountain top so that you can follow His whisper through the valley.” Gotta share this one. I have learned that when the suffering has been the most intense, His presence is most tangible.

  6. […] been reading a few blogs that people have written on this topic in an attempt to find some answers (https://boyslumber.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/dont-put-your-foot-down-may-18/; http://jessicakelley.com/2013/05/13/passionless-hope/). Well, unfortunately, while there may be […]

  7. “Learn to recognize your Savior’s voice on the mountain top so that you can follow His whisper through the valley.” Such beautiful and hope-filled words! This is a post that all hurting hearts need to read. I know it helped mine. Thank you so very much 🙂

  8. I’m not sure what causes you to tick that way JD but I’m glad it’s you and not me doing the cycle up the hill. My particular “Tick” is tackeling the wilderness lakes and portage trails (suffering) but the promise of catching big fish is on the other side of the portage. 25 portages later I might have caught a few. good blog on the spiritual part.

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