The Gift of Suffering

It is doubtful God can use any man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” — A.W. Tozer

Tozer’s quote is a paradox, one of the great mysteries of deep faith and fruitful living, that by means of trials and testings, we are enriched. Describing Himself in John 14:6, Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life.” While we readily recognize salvation in this declaration, there is much more. Jesus not only declares a truth here, He beckons us to a journey.

Elsewhere, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke plainly of the severity of this “way” (or road). He said, “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Mat. 7:14).

Jesus is the way which leads to life, and the way is narrow. When we consider the relationship between these two verses, something connects. We begin to see that the “way that leads to life” is the very process of becoming like Christ. Matthew 7:14 is not a purely evangelistic verse as many read it; it is a disciple’s verse. In other words, it not only refers to the numbers who follow, which is small, but also to the manner in which they follow, which is narrow. In this way, Jesus says, disciples are lead to life.

Interestingly, that word, “narrow” is translated as such only once in the New Testament. The much more common renderings—eight out of ten occurences—is “trouble”, “afflict” or “suffer tribulation”. The word literally means to press hard upon, or to squeeze like grapes and serves as the base for the words “tribulation”, “affliction”, “persecution” and “anguish” found elsewhere in the New Testament.

Kind of casts a whole new light on the passage, doesn’t it? Narrow not in quantity of number, but as a constricting force, exerting pressure from outward to inward, like a vise compressing.

There is tremendous value in a faith confession, but that value is not to magically remove difficulty from our lives. The gate is small, and the road leading to life is compressed. It is meant to squeeze you. You are meant to feel the pressure of it.

Anyone still interested in following Jesus? Few are. He said so Himself. This is most unfortunate, because the pressure on the way that leads to life is also meant to hold us. It keeps us safe. When everything is falling apart, or the pressures of the world are driving others mad, the disciple who has abandoned himself to follow “the Way” will find himself held in place by the vice of God’s love, immovable as He is, full of peace, and fixed with certainty to the destiny which awaits us. This is the perseverance of the saints…

He will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,

    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you. (Psalms 91)

RECOMMENDED READING: Where is God When it Hurts by Philip Yancey
The Problem of Pain
 & A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

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