I once read that "light is costly and comes at the expense of that which produces it. An unlit candle does not shine, for burning must come before the light. And we can be of little use to others without a cost to ourselves. Burning suggests suffering." (Streams in the Desert) As I reflected on that thought I could not help but think of the number of times that I have seen suffering bring destruction and not light. I thought of the times I have seen someone swallowed up and embittered by the suffering they were facing. It was then that I felt that gentle nudging that I have felt so often in the last year and a half that whispered to my soul, "It is a choice." Just as the match can bring light or destruction, suffering can have the same impact. The deciding factor is the condition of that which it comes in contact with. Should the flame come in contact with a dry, brittle soul, combustion is sure to take place. That combustion can become all consuming and swallow completely anything it comes in contact with. However, should the match come in contact with a soul rooted in the wax of faith, it becomes a warming light. Our choice is what kind of receiver will we be? Unfortunately, the suffering is painful regardless of whether we are a candle or kindling, but the after effects determine whether it was worth it. It is a choice, but it can be a hard choice to make when you are in the heat of suffering. It can seem impossible when you feel like you are being consumed, but Lamentations 3:22 says, "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail."
Maybe you are suffering today, feeling consumed by the friction in your life. I cannot ease your suffering, but I do want to encourage you. Be a candle and not kindling. Root yourself in faith and you become a light in spite of the challenges you face. There are so many scriptures that promise our suffering is momentary. One of my favorites is 1 Peter 5:10, "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." That verse, and so many others, promise that trials are going to pass, but I must warn you; you will be left with the aftereffects. If you become a candle during trials, then when the trials pass you continue to bring light, but if you allow the trials to make you dry, brittle kindling, you will find life difficult to rebuild after the trial by fire.
The match moved closer. It would soon come in contact. The heat of the tiny flame was growing. Contact was made. Suffering began. For a moment it felt as if the heat would be all consuming, but the fire did not spread. It did not bring disaster, for the wick was immersed in a vessel of wax. The wax, when warmed, gave off a warm, comforting aroma. A soft, soothing light radiated. Others were drawn to the glow. They found comfort there. And in the end, the suffering was worth it somehow.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9