Suffering Produces Endurance

The following article was published in the Shenandoah Valley Herald on March 9, 2012.

It's that time of the year when gardeners are planning to get the soil ready for gardens and flower beds. At our house the soil is a lumpy clay, hard to break up. We lack rich topsoil. This year I plan to mix in more manure in the flower bed to enrich the soil and hopefully to break down some of that clay.

Recently I heard Ned Conklin, former Virginia Extension agent for Shenandoah County, say that the topsoil here in the valley is an average of about 4 inches – not very deep at all. But at Meems Bottom, the topsoil is 5 feet deep (60 inches!). Can you imagine that? Four inches here; five feet there!? There is no limit to what can grow there. Why?

Meems Bottom is on route 11 south of Mt. Jackson. Here is the richest soil for miles because it is an alluvial soil, composed of "sedimentary material deposited by flowing water, as in a river bed or delta" (Webster's).  This rich deep dark topsoil is the result of thousands of years of constant flooding. The floods bring rich nutrients to the soil that go deep and provide a welcome host to the seed.

I think of this as it relates to suffering. Suffering is common to all. It is what unites us. Sometimes we suffer as a result of our own poor choices; sometimes as a result of poor choices of others. Sometimes we suffer for reasons that have no explanation and for which we are confounded. "Why me? Why this?" Some say God sends suffering; some say God allows suffering. Whatever.

The Apostle Paul says in Romans 5, "..we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." (NRSV)

Suffering of any kind can make you bitter or make you better. You decide. C. S. Lewis said, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." Suffering gets our attention.

Since we cannot it is wise to learn from it and by it to grow more beautiful as we learn endurance and grow character. Christian character grows in a soil of humility (humus), hope and love and blooms in Christ-like Christians. We could use a few more of those.

— Pastor Dave
March 9, 2012