“There’s nothing in our framework about the role of suffering in developing leaders.” My colleague spoke with conviction and urgency. “I take your point,” I said. I’d been considering where that truth would fit in our framework. It’s not like we can manufacture the suffering that God desires to use to shape a leader. What he was saying is important – that as leaders, we need to recognize the work that suffering does in our hearts, and embrace it.
Difficult circumstances make us look at what is really important. True suffering, not just the discomfort of inconvenience, always is a clarifying function. It makes us see what really matters. When you lose a loved one, most other things fade away. The ultimate reality of life and death are purifying.
In those moments, we can see what really matters.
And in those moments we can see ourselves. We can see what is inside, the demands for comfort, the grasp for control, the protest– without illusions, without props.
“Suffering introduces you to yourself and reminds you that you are not the person that you thought you were.” Paul Tillich
Romans 5 teaches us that suffering produces good results in us when we will choose to trust the Lord through them. Suffering leads to endurance and on to proven character, resulting in hope.
Staying the course as a leader requires endurance. God uses suffering to build endurance in our lives, in a similar way to athletes who build endurance by their training methods. In a sense, suffering is God’s training for our souls. It is His test for faithfulness to Him no matter what, and trustworthiness with His agenda. He builds our capacities through it.
Jeremiah, in chapter 12, lays out a kind of complaint about what is happening to him. He is being mistreated by those around him; his lament lays out his loneliness and discouragement. God responds to him with this beautiful rebuke.
His message to Jeremiah? You are fighting the small battles now. There are bigger ones coming.
God has a way of building the capacities of our souls through difficulty. As we see Him be faithful to us in small things, we have faith that He will stand by us and deliver us when things get tougher. He will always be faithful to His promises. The question is – will we believe Him when the going gets rough?