I Peter 4:12-13 says
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
As I refect on the year 2012, I can see the ways that God was drawing me closer to Himself. He called me to shed so many identities and accomplishments I had built up for myself. He asked me to follow Him at all costs. It was the hardest year of my life, yet I grew closer to Him than any other year. I think all of us can look at our lives and find that during the hardest times was the times we drew closer to our heavenly Father. So these moments of pain and heartache may not be something we look forward to, however we can expect them to happen and realize that we are in His hands and being drawn closer to Him.
In late August of this past year, I found myself in a time of prayer with the Lord. I had watched a video of Pastor Matt Chandler and his response when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He talked about Hebrews 11 and the great heroes of faith. In that chapter, the author speaks of those who had great victories and triumphs in their lives but quickly switches to those who were persecuted and suffered for the the name of Christ. He says the world was not worthy of them. The Holy Spirit pierced my soul. My life so far was full of good things, nice home, nice job, nice family, ect. I had a great amount of favor and blessing being poured out. I had never endured any great sufferings. I fell on my knees that summer afternoon and cried out that God would consider me worthy to suffer for his name. That when faced with a trial I would glorify him and praise Him. That my life would be a testament to His sufferings and His redemption. I had no idea that just a few short weeks later, I would be assaulted in my Refugee Resource center barely surviving.
This experience has changed my life. I see suffering in a different light. I am sure not perfect and find myself at times wishing it would all just go away and God would take away the pain that still resides inside after 4 months. However, I must realize that this life I live is not for me. It is for Him. My life purpose is to become more like Jesus and he uses the pain and suffering for His glory.
I recently heard a pastor preach that the safest place to be is in God's will. I cringed as he taught that physical protection comes from being in God's will and danger and suffering comes from being outside of the presence of God. This is completely anti-biblical, in fact the gospels teach us the complete opposite message. It seems the more you become like Christ the more of his sufferings you will be counted worthy of. Examples include: Every Disciple of Jesus, Stephen, the Apostle Paul, John the Baptist, and the millions of Christian martyrs around the world.
I have no idea what the year 2013 holds for me or my family and friends. I can pray for a year of blessings and peace for us all. However I think what God truly wants us to pray is that we will become more and more like Jesus this year no matter the cost. From my experience this is not an easy prayer and one to be taken lightly. We must trust in the sovereignty of our Lord.