Do you ever get frustrated by life? Silly question, isn't it? Of course you do! We all do. We get frustrated by our spouses, our kids, our jobs, even by our own behavior.
Now don't try to tell me that you don't sometimes step back and wonder, "Why did I do that?" If you do, you're in good company. The Apostle Paul said he found himself doing the things he didn't want to do (Romans 7:15). Sometimes I catch myself telling myself things like, "You should know better!"
It isn't a matter of knowing better, is it? Only a sociopath doesn't "know" better. As Paul tells us in Romans, it isn't a matter of knowing and wanting to do better. The problem is that sin lives in us. We are slaves to it. But Christ sets us free! There is no condemnation for those who are in him (Romans 8:1).
That's a nice thought, but how do we get to the place where we're living victoriously?
First, in this life it's a process, a journey that will not end until death gives us the final victory over our behavior. But what's very interesting is that Paul tells us that the way we go down the road is through our suffering!
Yes, our suffering brings us closer to God. When we suffer, we share in Christ's sufferings (unless we're suffering for our own sins - see 1 Peter 2:20; 3:17; 4:15). Sharing Christ's sufferings gives us a share of his glory too! "We share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory" (Romans 8:17). Furthermore, Romans 5:3-4 tells us that "suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."
It's a rather sobering thought to realize that the quickest way to have victory over sin is through suffering. Sometimes I think "Have I not suffered enough?" But really, it's not the amount of suffering I go through that matters. It's what I do with it. Do I allow God to teach me? Shape me? Or do I rail against him?
Maybe what I need to do is revisit some of my places of suffering, see where God really was during them. If I allow God to use my past suffering to give me perseverance, character and hope, I'll be more successful in the Christian walk today. And maybe I'll eliminate some future suffering!