With laws now making the choice to end one’s life easier, what would convince people who see only pain and suffering in their future that life is preferable to death?
It would surely be an understanding of what life is for. But that raises some challenging questions, because for the first ten to fifteen years of our lives we just “live life as it comes” without a passing thought as to what life is for. And when troubles hit in teenage, maybe to the point of contemplating suicide, what reasons do parents and other carers give for not killing oneself and continuing to live?
But who’s got time to get into what life is for anyway? We spend a third of our lives asleep, another third working, and the other third taken up mostly with personal and family activities. And if you’re ill, frail, injured, homeless and a social pariah, who cares what life is for? Just getting through a day is enough.
What must God be thinking, then? He had great plans for us, equipping us with wildly creative minds, and placing us in an endlessly fascinating creation that would, as we delved into it, thoroughly convince us that he’s amazing and he loves us.
But that didn’t work out, did it? Instead, we’re stuck in a world governed by – to quote philosopher Jeremy Bentham – “two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do.” But how does that convince a person life is worth living, when life offers little pleasure and a lot of pain?
Cut to Ephesians 1:5, therefore, and Paul telling us that “Long, long ago God decided to adopt us into his family.” Ah, so that’s what he gave us life for. Meaning that we could have been living as members of his family for thousands of years already. But evil put paid to that – until, that is, Jesus “destroyed the devil’s work,” 1 John 3:8, and unlocked the door again to what makes life worth living, which is “knowing that we are children of God,” 1 John 5:19.
So what’s that like? Well, that’s what we get to discover in this lifetime now, as bit by bit we come to “know him who is true,” verse 20.
Would that be enough, though, to convince a despairing person that life now is worth living, no matter what one’s present circumstances are?
Well, what if someone who’s already been living as a member of God’s family has great stories to tell of God’s exquisitely customized help in times of deeply pressing need – just like Paul’s story in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10? Would that then encourage the despairing person to “reach out for God and find him,” and discover for himself that God is “not far from each one of us” – because we really “are his offspring,” Acts 17:27-28?
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Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good courage, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Trials and tribulations are a necessary part of spiritual growth. It’s like exercising—our muscles need resistance training in order to strengthen and grow, so our bodies can become physically fit. Without some form of physical exercise our muscles become weak and our bodies, flabby.
Spiritual muscle also needs some good resistance training (in the form of trials and sufferings) in order to strengthen and grow us spiritually; otherwise we become spiritual weaklings with no spiritual root. This is why Paul could say with confidence, “We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us.” (Romans 5:3b-5a, Contemporary English Version)