One of our family's favourite classic movies is the "claymation" production by Dreamworks called,Chicken Run. The story revolves around a group of portly chickens and one stately older rooster who realize they've been "cooped up" far too long. The leader of the chickens is Ginger, an extremely intelligent and determined hen who refuses to spend the remainder of her days "fenced in" at the mercy of the sinister farmer. However, time and again their escape attempts from the concentration-camp-style chicken coop all ended in failure until, through a series of mishaps, they discovered a picture of an airplane. "This is our answer," Ginger announced, and the group quickly coordinated the construction of their very own flying machine. However, as most good plans do, theirs ran into a snag when they were discovered by the bumbling farmer (hence, the famous line, "The chickens are organized!" ? said in my best hackney accent). They had to act, and they had to act NOW.
As you can imagine, the announcement of immediate action only served to ruffle the feathers of the already "chicken" chickens. But Ginger wasn't about to give up. Right there on the spot she gave an impassioned speech on why they should act, resulting in thunderous applause. However, it was the response from Babs (the hen that seemed always one egg short of a dozen) that still gives my family a good chuckle. At the height of her rallying cry, Ginger announced, "We'll either die free chickens ? or die trying!" That's when Babs, with a quivering beak, asked, "Are those the ONLY choices?" Our family just loves that part! I think it's because, whether we admit it or not, deep in our hearts, we are Babs. Facing the potential of suffering is a reality we'd really rather avoid. That's why when reading certain passages in the Bible, most of us are stopped cold in our tracks.
The Apostle Paul was definitely a man who knew the meaning of suffering for his faith. In fact, he wrote several of his letters (which make up a good portion of the New Testament) while in prison. Just listen to what he wrote while sitting in a prison cell in Rome.
"There's far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There's also suffering for Him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting." Philippians 1:29 (The Message)
Did you get that? Suffering for Jesus is as much a gift as trusting in Him. Suffering is a gift. Hmmm - now there's a sobering thought. One that (for most of us) doesn't go down very easily. Another nugget to chew on is found in the fifth chapter of the letter Paul wrote to the church in Rome (actually it's more like a full buffet of thought-provoking morsels).
"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love." ~ Romans 5:3-5
Whoa - that's a lot to take in. Let me get this straight. Problems --> endurance --> strength of character --> confident hope of salvation --> revelling in God's love. You know, when you look at it that way, it doesn't sound so bad. And the more you read of the Bible, the more you discover a theme. Even the Apostle James had something to say about it.
"When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow..." ~ James 1:2-4
So to recap - Troubles come --> great joy --> endurance grows. Yep. There's definitely a pattern. The obvious progression of suffering ultimately producing a growth in grace is undeniable. And with more grace comes a greater intimacy with the Grace Giver. And when you boil it all down, isn't that the bottom line?
So to all the Babs in the world (myself included), you need not fear suffering. As we trust in God's faithfulness, we can be assured that the process (no matter how long) will ultimately end in our good (Romans 8:28).
And just like our feathered friends, once we make it over to the other side, we'll find that, really, it's all been worth it.