But remember the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a great struggle with sufferings. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to abuses and afflictions, and other times you became partners with those who were treated this way. - Hebrews 10:32-33
When I think back to my early days as a believer, “after I was enlightened”, I remember the great struggles I endured. Sometimes we refer to this as the “working out of our salvation”, but these struggles, internally and externally, are the birth of our faith. Like giving birth, there are many stages in the process: hurt, joy, pain, and let’s not forget the mess. (sorry to be graphic!) Spiritual birth is also a messy process. As I have been reading this passage in Hebrews I have been recalling the different pains and struggles.
Suffering is multi-faceted. It doesn’t always look like outward persecution for our faith from unbelievers who would seek to harm us and put us in prison. Suffering can be the deep pain of feeling misunderstood. It can be when we don’t understand what is happening in our lives and we are trying to hear from God, and He doesn’t seem to be speaking. It can be thinking you are right in your actions, only to realize later what a complete jerk you were and having to figure out how to clean up relational messes you have made.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. - 1 Corinthians 13:11
In my early days as a believer I made some pretty horrible mistakes. I remember several occasions that I feel horribly embarrassed about to this day. In my zeal, maybe even in pride, correcting situations that was not my place to correct, and in turn being corrected, even humiliated, in front of other church staff and church members. Some of these things I did and said in my immaturity caused me great suffering. I wrestled with the Lord over what to say and not say. Sometimes to the error of fear to even open my mouth. For several years I even had a reoccurring nightmare where I would be in a staff meeting at our church and the Senior Pastor had a box he would open in front of everyone and he would pull out these papers, each one that said something horrible and exposing about me. He would read them one at a time, and everyone would laugh, or jeer, or cringe. Oh it was horrible!
The struggle of growing up in faith, of dividing the truth of who we are in Christ, of what others in our lives say about us, about the ‘becoming of ourself’, and really working out the balance of receiving from men without a wrong ‘fear of man’— this is great struggle. And may I submit, that if we suffer well, we learn and grow and come out pleasing God.
See, I also remember the former days when I had a special boldness that accompanied this immaturity. Was it not pleasing to God? Do we sacrifice the one for the other? Restraining our boldness for lack of maturity? No!
Therefore, do not lose your boldness, which has great reward. - Hebrews 10:35
I confess to you that for the sake of the fear of man, I have restrained my boldness to an ungodly measure, sure it comes out from time to time… but if we could just be bold without fear of man- with confidence in Christ, though we struggle internally. I believe the struggle is good. I believe the inward struggle is really for our good. It’s the evidence that we are living for Christ and not our flesh. So I will embrace the internal struggle, and I will strive to be bolder, that this suffering, though nothing comparatively to some of my brothers and sisters in the world, would continue to perfect me until the day of Christ.