A couple of years ago I noticed that I strained to see. It was certainly true when I didn't have my glasses, but even my low-prescription glasses weren't helping all that much. When I went to the optometrist, I was shocked to find out that my eyesight had gone from 20/35 to 20/100! Over time, my eyesight subtly got worse, and I didn't even know it. But when I got my new prescription, I could see far more clearly.
Suffering can be like a visit to the optometrist. If we keep it in the lens of God, His Kingdom, and His Gospel, suffering brings sharper clarity to life. The house fire has been one such act of clarity.
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." (James 1:2-3)
James, and the rest of the early church, knew trials. Whether it was the poor being neglected, or the apostles and others beaten or killed for their faith in Christ; Christians knew trials of various kinds. And James calls them to count it all joy. Why? Because it produces steadfastness in faith.
I've learned a lot through the fire. I learned how fragile life and time is, how quickly things can turn to disaster, and how possessions can be so quickly lost. I have learned to be grateful for having a roof over my head, food to eat, and a pillow to rest my head. The last one is especially sweet to me, because Jesus famously told someone that He did not have a pillow to lay his head (Luke 9:58). I've also learned that I'm not the only one that has either deep sorrows, or deep joys.
Around the same time of our fire, others that I know have had deep suffering. The death of a loved one. Excruciating pain that has no end in sight. A cancer diagnosis. A premature baby recovering in the NICU. The rejection of employers. And yet, at the same time, there are deep joys as well.
The adoption of a foster child. New marriages on the horizon (including one where I get to stand with one of my best friends!). New relationships, including one that has a beautiful, decade-long redemption story. New brothers and sisters in Christ.
And this is only what I know about.
God is wise to let us suffer for so many reasons, but one is to push us to see things from His perspective. It's how we find better joy.
It allows us to move past our own lives to see a broader view.
It allows us to enjoy more of what we have, including our relationship with God.
It helps us to mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice.
It produces thankfulness in even the smallest things... a reminder that we are forever dependent on the God who breathed life into us.
And it produces thankfulness that one day suffering will be gone. What a beautiful hope. What shocking clarity suffering provides. That we would see and rejoice in the wisdom and majesty of the God who deeply loves us, and proved it once and for all in Christ.