My wife and I really got hooked on the latest season of Survivor. There was a twist to this most current version in that there was a second chance once a contestant got voted off. They called the second chance “Redemption Island.” They rejected contestants gathered at this secondary site and waited for chances to try to earn their way back into the game. If they lost again, no more chance at redemption; the game was over for them.
There was one contestant, a young guy named Matt, that was on Redemption Island the majority of the game. He went there, won his way back onto the main game and then went there again. Eventually he lost but the process of his isolation and rejection took a toll on him. He literally broke and cried out to God. He almost instantly changed his prayer to come into agreement with God’s will and he assumed it was God’s will for him to be there, since that’s where he was.
Are all of the hard things in our lives God’s will? If so, isn’t it kind of hard to warm up to Him since He is hanging on to this big bag of nasty things for us to endure? Isn’t it possible that God yields His will to us much more than we might give Him credit for? Isn’t it possible that He allows us to endure things that He doesn’t necessarily will for us?
At the same time, isn’t it possible that we can find God in the middle of the trials a little differently than we sometimes do when all is well in our world? If we cry out to Him in the middle of isolation and rejection, are we more likely to find Him in a deeper and more meaningful way? If we reject that idea or effort, can’t we go through the trials with absolutely no gain from it at all?
I have come to believe that the suffering is much more valuable than we have given it credit for. Our suburban culture cries out for more of the comforts and we tend to want to run to comfort at the expense of depth. We become overcomers when we stare difficulty in the face and find strength in our weakness. We exercise in getting to the end of ourselves, shedding the doubtful old for the hopeful new. We allow our character to be shaped by recognizing that our previous character is insufficient for future challenges without the process of growth. As painful as it is in the middle of the shaping, the resulting maturity and wisdom is coveted and valued to the point that we reflect and recognize the value of the pain.
While redemption is not truly limited by winning or losing challenges, the process that follows redemption is what gets us off an island. The process following redemption is all too often viewed as a negative attack on the good things in our life. Maybe the painful process of challenging the good things isn’t negative at all, but Glorious.