“If You’re Going Through Hell…”

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On Sunday, Emily preached about how we respond to suffering. Earlier this week, Vince posted on how we should respond by praying. But there is yet another response that can be difficult and not all that intuitive. 

We persevere. 

There are different reasons for our suffering. We may be at fault: maybe we made a bad decision, or maybe we sinned. We may be under trial by the devil, or being sinned against: we didn’t do anything wrong, in fact, we maybe did something right, and yet we’re still suffering. Or, God is causing our suffering for our growth, which is maybe my least favorite form of suffering, since I say I want God to make me new and better and to change my heart, but when I get that answered, it often means being stretched beyond what I think my limits are. Plus, it often just looks like regular old suffering.

Anyhow, Peter anticipates these different forms of suffering, but he has basically this advice: Keep on keeping on. Remain faithful. 

I don’t particularly like Peter’s response to suffering.

Or Paul’s for that matter: 

But we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

So we suffer because it builds character… Ugh, yet another thing that causes my eyes to glaze over. 

Me, I prefer to roll up in a ball, watch TV, do whatever it takes to disconnect, become numb, and shut down. Regardless of whether the suffering is my own fault, someone else’s, or God’s, this is generally my default reaction. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think this desire to disconnect leads people into addiction, risky behaviors, aimlessness, apathy, all kinds of things. 

But this gets rid of that important benefit Paul mentions that happens at the end of building character: hope. We trust in God, we trust his promises, and that is our hope, and when we fail to persevere, we lose this hope. 

Last Saturday at Barnes and Noble, I picked up one of those catchy-quote magnets. It was a quote from Winston Churchill that said:

If you’re going through hell, keep going. 

At first, I was like: “Wha…? Why would I keep going through hell if I don’t have to…?” And then I realized something: I wasn’t getting this quote because I, like many other people, start from the assumption that you can somehow avoid going through suffering in this lifetime. That’s just not true: everyone goes through their own personal hell at some point. This quote is not about trudging through hell stubbornly; it’s about dealing with reality. 

We cannot just sit down in the midst of hell and stop. Well, we could, but we shouldn’t. We need to keep going, regardless of the obstacles, the pain, the struggle, because to stop is to wallow and guarantee continued suffering. To keep going and keep moving is to choose hope in the end. 

So the real question is: If you’re going through some form of hell, how will you respond?

If you’re going through hell because you made a huge mistake: Keep Going. 

If you’re going through hell because someone else is causing your suffering: Keep Going. 

If you’re going through hell because God wants you to grow: Keep Going. 

If you’re going through hell, keep going. 

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