I have a confession to make. Sometimes I hope that Chick-Fil-A gets my order out to me really slowly and botch their service. Why? Because I know if they do then I’ll get a card that entitles me to free awesomeness in the form of a Chick-fil-a sandwich. They screw up and I get rewarded. So, sometimes I secretly hope they jack something up. I won’t complain. I won’t even look disappointed. I’ll just humbly hold out my hand and allow them to appease me with a free sandwich.
I’m not always that giddy about waiting though. A few weeks ago I was waiting for about 10 minutes in the McDonalds parking lot. They had told me to pull up so they could give me my “Chicken” McNuggets. But when car after car went around me I knew something had went awry. Perhaps they had ran out of faux-chickens to massacre. I went inside and waited another 5 minutes and finally got my food. All I received in return for my trouble was the bag that I paid for and a weak “sorry” from an inconvenienced cashier.
Of course I handled all of this in a Christ-like manner. By that of course I mean that I started turning over tables and calling them a brood of vipers. Actually, outwardly I did nothing except for complain to the guy next to me about how weak McDonalds is compared to Chick-Fil-A. I felt that I deserved at least a free ice-cream cone, a happy-meal toy, or even a couple fries. But I received nothing and that really bothered me about having to wait so long with no reward.
Then today as I shamefully pull up to the McDonalds window the lady tells me pull forward—as is becoming almost customary at this Mickey D’s—but this time she hands me a card for a FREE Big Mac or McMuffin. Way to move up in the world, McDonalds! This time I find myself waiting with joy and next time I’m sure I’ll hope they blow their 30 second mark and I get another free sandwich which I can sell on Ebay since I don’t like Big Mac’s.
Suffering and Joy
As I joyfully waited for my food in the McDonalds lot I began to wonder if this is often why we rail against suffering and persecution and the difficulties we face in life. We go through heartache and it seems as if the Lord just dropped the ball and then gives us a cold “sorry” but then reminds us that He’s in control and we are not. McDonalds seemed to communicate to me, “I own you, you’ll be back, I don’t really need to go above and beyond to sell you this mystery meat because you’re already addicted and you knows its cheap and easy”. And sometimes I wonder if we view God and suffering similarly. “I’m God. I own you. So shut it and keep coming back”.
Though sometimes it may feel that way, the Scriptures communicate to us that suffering is not pointless and the Lord’s attitude to us is not a cold indifference. Suffering actually is intended to lead to greater joy and greater hope. This seems to be Paul’s logic in Romans 5 when he says:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
(Romans 5:1-5 ESV)
Just as I rejoice in my “suffering” because I know that it will lead to a free chicken sandwich (or the lesser joy of a Big Mac) so also we rejoice in suffering because we know that the reward is sweeter than the pain. I can wait 5 minutes if it means biting into a greasy chicken. And I can endure a lifetime of pain and difficulty and border-line futility and confusion if it means that it will climax in a hope fulfilled experience of God’s love being poured out.
So wait with joy. We have far more than a free chicken sandwich coming our way!