Let me qualify something. I do not know if “friend” is the best word for suffering, but I do know this: “To the pure all things are pure…” (Titus 1:15 NKJV). All those who are godly will suffer and we rejoice in persecution for Christ’s sake. We count it an honor to complete the sufferings of Christ in our bodies.
God is granting me the great blessing of finally beginning to understand this a little bit. Experience has a way of making the deepest of concepts very real and interpreting them to us. Only because of experience do I now understand what Thomas Dubay says when he states in his book Fire Within, “We ought not to view the relationship [of suffering and growth in prayer] as extrinsic,; that is, as though suffering is a ticket that admits to prayer but without inner causality. On the contrary, suffering borne with much love and in union with Christ crucified purifies and renews.” One will never find freedom to suffer if they continue thinking that it is an extrinsic, outward imposition from God onto us as a requirement that “buys” us something. It is only when one truly sees the actual effect that suffering can have on the soul surrendered to God internally as an experienced reality, that one embraces the suffering of Jesus. Suffering is not some imposed requirement. The effect that suffering has on one who is surrendered to God is a law, the same way that gravity is a natural law. It’s a spiritual principle. When one has “A” (such as surrender to God) and experiences the catalyst of “B” (such as suffering), fruit actually results. Suffering has a profound effect on such a person. The effect actually takes place in the spirit of a person, at the base of their being, at the very foundation of their life. It happens on the level of conviction and so affects our thinking. Our thinking is necessarily affected by our most basic convictions, and so when a person through faith in God undergoes trials, God purifies, refines, and builds the most basic fundamental convictions of that person. At this level, suffering relates to prayer and spiritual growth.
I have begun to find a small measure of joy in the very small measure of suffering which God has granted me with. I have not experienced the suffering that many in this world have, but I know that the small amount of suffering I have experienced will profoundly affect and train my spirit in such a way that I will be ready for more when it comes. War is coming. Much testing is coming. May God grant the school of hard knocks, the school of suffering by His grace to the Church now, even in small measure, that they would be prepared to be a people of foundation in the midst of cosmos-level turbulence.