“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
In our last blog post, Sharon talked about being in a symbolic prison for a season.
I can relate very much to that imagery, now and in past seasons of my life. We all have those times when things feel oppressive, closed in, even hopeless. In the Bible, God promises many things. One of the things He never promised was that we would get through this human life without tribulation. As a matter of fact, He repeatedly reminds us that we will experience trial, tribulation, hardship, and testing. Have you ever seen the bumper sticker that says, “Life sucks and then you die.”? Wow, that’s encouraging, thanks!
Suffering is HARD. Being in a theoretical “prison cell” season of life HURTS. But, I’m learning through my life challenges that there is purpose in pain. In every experience in life that threatens to keep me down, in every relationship struggle that pushes me to discouragement, in every loss that hurts to the point of devastation, the only way out is THROUGH.
When the Israelites were freed from the slavery they endured in Egypt for so long (their season of a “prison sentence”), they had to go through the wilderness to eventually find their way to the Promised Land that God had offered them. I recently learned that the Promised Land of Canaan was a mere 200 miles from Egypt, where they began their journey. If they had taken the direct route, with no stops, retreats, rests, or grumbling, they would have arrived at their destination in 11 days rather than wandering for 40 years!
What was the holdup? Their disobedience and unbelief stalled and distracted them from getting to the promised freedom and fruitful life, “the land of milk and honey.” Why did God allow them to continue to sit and suffer for all that time? He could have redirected them and provided them with the beautiful life that they dreamed of so much quicker and so much easier. The fruits of their suffering and time spent wondering why they had to struggle so much was worth waiting for the reward. The depth of their learning and ours as people who study that story many, many years later, is exponential. And our battles with hardship can result in exponential reward also, for us, for our families, for the people we influence.
In Romans 5:3-4, Paul (who spent a LOT of time in prison) says, “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, HOPE.”
To walk successfully through the hard parts of life, facing head-on the hurts and hindrances that threaten to bring us to despair, frustration, or retreat, we need to remember one thing:
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)
We have a Helper. He knows the beginning, middle, and end of our struggles. He has the power to lead us through in the manner that helps us most, even if it’s hard. He knows the true meanings of perseverance, character, and hope. And He promises us a CROWN OF LIFE if we persevere under trial and love and trust Him in the process:
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)
I looked up the symbolism of a crown. A crown represents power, legitimacy, victory, triumph, honor, and glory. For Jesus, the crown of thorns he was forced to wear at his crucifixion may have seemed like a tool of torture, humiliation, and suffering. But we know the ending. God’s power, victory, and honor are revealed through the path of Jesus’ suffering. It was the way that it was meant to be from the beginning of the story. God knew that Jesus’ story of suffering and redemption is the best story ever told. So if you are in a season of suffering right now, or have been baffled by one with “Why me?” or “How long?”, know that our Lord has been there too. And though He does not promise a life without suffering, He does promise a Crown of Life if you keep looking to Him for help in getting through it.
I love you, precious Better Than Fine Daughters of the King~Your CROWN is coming!