Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Suffering a gift?

When writing to the Philippians, Paul, incredibly, calls suffering a gift, just like faith is a gift: “To you it has been granted (freely given) for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29).

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn also spoke of his time in prison, with all its pain, as a gift:

It was granted to me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. 

It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts.… That is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me: “Bless you, prison!” I … have served enough time there. I nourished my soul there, and I say without hesitation: “Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!” Solzhenitsyn agrees with the apostle Paul that suffering is—or can be—a gift not just for apostles, but for every Christian.

Can you think of moments when suffering became a surprising gift?