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Can suffering build spiritual strength?

They love fresh fish! At least that’s how the story goes.

Fishing off the coast of Japan has become more and more difficult because the waters are over-fished. Fishermen can find fish farther out to sea but it takes longer to get the fish to market so they no longer taste fresh. In an attempt to bring in better fish, the fishermen tried freezing them immediately after catching them. However, consumers didn’t like the flavor of frozen fish. Fishermen tried bringing them back to shore alive in tanks full of water but the crowded tanks inhibited their movement which affected their flavor so they abandoned that. Finally, small sharks were introduced into the fish tanks which kept the fish active and alert as they tried to stay out of harm’s way and surprisingly they tasted much better.

Just as adversity meant a better tasting fish, can adversity strengthen us spiritually? Seldom do Christians say that they grew stronger spiritually during times when life was going smoothly but many say that they learned the most about trusting God during hard times.

God considered a man named Job blameless and upright. (You can find out more about his life in the book of Job beginning with Chapters 1 and 2 and ending with chapters 38-42.) Job was a man who had intense adversity due to the loss of his possessions, his children and his health. In spite of his loss he demonstrated great trust in God when he said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21b NIV).

Just as Job trusted God completely in spite of his circumstances, perhaps we need to look at our suffering with a heart that trusts God as well. We will experience suffering during this life. Sometimes it might be because of our faith and sometimes for reasons we don’t yet understand as in Job’s case. Either way, we should be alert and ask God what He wants us to learn.

As an encouragement, we are promised that good can come out of our struggles. “…and we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:2b-4 NIV).

In addition, we are promised that our earthly suffering is nothing compared to the amazing future God has planned for those who follow him. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18 NIV). Even more exciting is the fact that eventually our sufferings will not be remembered. “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” (Isaiah 65:17 NIV).

Rather than drowning in our struggles, let’s grasp God’s hand, lean into Him and let His wisdom lead and teach us through our times of adversity.

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