Recycling Your Sorrows - Some Thoughts on Redemptive Suffering
I have news for you:

God doesn’t “will” suffering. It's not "God's plan."

Say what? So all those people saying everything bad that’s happening is “God’s will” or “God’s plan” are confused? Yes. Yes they are. Very confused. And if you’re one of those people, please, in humility learn why that’s not the truth. (Links to resources in the next paragraph) God doesn’t will for us to suffer. He does allow it though, but that’s not the same thing. (Want to learn more about this? Start here – He explains it so much better than I could. Still want more? This is longer, but so, so helpful. Literally changed my life.) God assures us that, though suffering is not His will, He is capable of working in and through suffering, and we see this most clearly, especially today, on the Cross. You have suffered. I know you have. I have too. We all have. So what can we do with our suffering? It happens, we can’t avoid it, so what do we do with it? If you’ve spent any time around here you know how I feel about recycling. (Spoiler alert: I love it.) So what if we tried to recycle our suffering? Weird idea? Maybe. But really it’s just a different way to talk about “redemptive suffering” – an idea as old as the Cross itself. Suffering can mean something. Suffering can serve a purpose. We can offer our suffering to God and say, “Please, take this. Use this. Make something out of this mess that seems like it should just be thrown away.” And you know what? He does. You can give him tears, broken hearts, broken bones, shattered trust. He’ll take dysfunctional families, hopeless situations, all the physical pain and spiritual turmoil we can muster. He’ll take it all and it comes with a promise – if you give it, He will use it. Will you get to see the final product? Maybe not here. Maybe not in your lifetime. But someday, yes. If you go meet Him, I firmly believe He will show you. Even if you know nothing about God, looking around at the world you cannot help but see that He is an artist. He is a creator. A master of form and design. Go to the zoo, a garden, look at your children or best friend. And yet He does all his work with inferior, finite, unwieldy resources. He is the God that takes the absence of the sun and uses it has an opportunity for a sunset. He fashions each human face, the depths of the sea. And that's why I think the recycling metaphor is especially fitting. Recycling has connotations of using materials that are essentially worthless on their own and turning them into something of value. And for people that struggle with the idea of redemptive suffering, I think that comparison may be illuminating. It's something to think about the next time you suffer. It does not need to be without meaning. It is not without purpose. Suffering can help you to know Him better and it can help others to as well. Think of our God, a God of creation, a God of victory from a cross, a God of recycled sorrows. His arms are open. He will take what you give Him. And with the discerning eye of an artist He will begin to use it all. And in that, find peace.

God bless you this Good Friday and always. Know you are in my prayers.