Monday, August 8, 2011

Faith and Suffering: Hebrews 11

I've read the beginning of Hebrews 11 many times in lessons about faith. It recites many familiar examples sacrifices that were made by faith and of the miracles that resulted. But I missed something huge at the end of the chapter. The recital turns to examples of people whose suffering was not rewarded in this life.

And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these having obtained a good report through faith, received not he promise:
[and here is where the Joseph Smith Translation makes a HUGE difference]

God having provided some better things for them through their sufferings, for without sufferings they could not be made perfect.                      -Hebrews 11:36-40

It's amazing to me how I find certain themes popping up in my study at certain times in my life. I don't think it's any coincidence that I studied this chapter, then our Relief Society lesson yesterday was on the same talk about the Atonement and pain that I just posted recently. The teacher read a quote (which I should find and put here) about how parents should not try to keep their children from all suffering, because it is for their good. It reminded me about how I feel each time Ethan has a surgery or any other procedure--I want to take it all away! I feel like I would do anything to take his place. But the Lord knows Ethan, and he will be perfected through the trials designed specifically for him.

Chapter 12 of Hebrews continues on the theme of enduring trials, suffering, and chastisement.

My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  v. 5-7

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.  v. 11

I think that many people center their case against God around the idea that a loving god would not allow us to suffer. Or would not allow us to suffer for very long. Or would not allow some people to suffer more than others. But I say that god would be a pointless god. Why even put us here if the only purpose is for everyone to feel good and then come back? That was Lucifer's plan! Sounds attractive, but how would we learn to love each other or Him? I am not saying that God relishes in our suffering, but He allows it because He knows that it will ultimately bring us greater joy in the long run. We come to know Christ as we endure hard trials. We come to know Christ as we reach out and alleviate the suffering of others. We need those experiences. I am grateful to know that our Father has a purpose for us, and uses this time on earth as an intense schooling through which each individual can be perfected through Christ and prepared for the limitless opportunities of eternity.

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