Often in suffering we go to friends and family sharing our pain. We lean on those we love and trust to help us through the time of suffering. It may be parents or a close friend, a small study group, we want to tell our story to someone and gain sympathy and emotional support. We hope that if we share it with someone the burden will be lighter for us to carry and sometimes it is.
Unfortunately, sometimes when we share suffering with people we lean on it becomes overwhelming for them. At times those we counted on are not available, they are busy and we are alone, adding to our suffering abandonment.
We find those that go to drugs and alcohol (escaping our pain). Escaping the pain is a main objective when we are suffering. Some use and abuse prescription medications to escape and get relief and others use illegal drugs use to take away the pain. Alcohol abuse to dull the senses to the pain of suffering is not uncommon either. The problem with this method of dealing with the pain is it is temporary, and when the high is over, the pills are gone, the bottle is empty, the pain is back sometimes bringing complicating problems as a result of the drug use like physical dependency, financial trouble, or legal trouble.
We avoid suffering and trials and we do not view them as good. Our flesh cries out against them because they are painful and heartbreaking and we feel miserable, therefore they must be bad.
However we feel about suffering, it is good for us because it teaches us about God and about ourselves. It is in the fires of suffering we learn what we are really made of, and we learn what we truly believe about God, who He is, and who we are to Him. God is accomplishing great things through our suffering!
“It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71, NASB).
Suffering Accomplishes God’s Objectives
Suffering identifies us with Christ (1 Peter 4:3). A part of the calling we have received in salvation includes bearing up under unjust suffering as Christ did. You may be suffering presently because of the sin of another person in your life and a decision they made. Entrusting yourself to God when you are suffering from someone else’s sin is hard but not impossible; Jesus left you the example of how to do it (1 Peter 2:21).
Suffering increases our faith. God intends to produce a complete and perfect faith through the trials we face. James (James 1:2-4) says the goal in our trials is that our faith become perfect, complete, not lacking anything. This is why we can rejoice in our trials- because they are producing in us a faith that is absolutely completely perfect – a faith that is not lacking anything in any respect so when trials come our way we have no doubt about them or hesitancy in going through them. Faith like this can only be produced by testing and trials/suffering. This is why we can consider our trials with joy and welcome adversity as a friend—because they are God’s means to the end of self-sufficiency and the beginning of dependence upon Him.
Suffering is also a confirmation of your faith. It is wrong to tell a Christian that they are undergoing trials and sufferings because they are sinning or not Christian enough. This is what Job’s friends tried, remember? They wanted Job to think that he was cast off by God due to his suffering. God brings us trials and sufferings to mature our faith. He is making us more useful to Him and we can be confident that God is maturing and completing His perfect work within us.
Suffering reminds us God is sovereign (Romans 8:28-29). I find it is the issue most Christians struggle with. It is crucial that we understand that in God’s sovereign purposes, what we suffer is under His authority. God is managing it; He is in charge of it. He has a purpose and a plan for it. When we view God’s actions in the life of His own Son Jesus Christ, all our arguments must fall apart (John 19:10-11). When we are struggling, on some level, we believe that even God has no control over our circumstances.
But the truth is this: If anything or anyone can act outside of His sovereign rule, then He cannot be God. Even in the moments of despair we must cling to Him and His sovereignty over people and decisions. God is always in control of our suffering. He uses it, He works in it, and He ministers through it to us and those in our lives. He controls the duration of the suffering and is always completely 100% in control of it.
Suffering increases our dependency upon God and reminds us how much we need Him (2 Corinthians 12:9). We are such independent creatures and in our prideful hearts we think that we are wise enough to figure a way out of whatever trial has been presented. We want to fix it ourselves, like the 2 year old who insists on dressing themselves and tying their own shoes.
But when we suffer, we call out to God like we do at no other time. As Christians we know intellectually that He is our only hope, and our only relief, but in our flesh we often hate the application of that truth. There is sometimes fear in full dependency, because we know God is not required to handle the situation the way we want it handled and we fear what He will do.
We also fear being weak and vulnerable and dependent, yet this is what God desires. God intentionally places us in positions were we must rely only on Him. Our comfort and our provision come from Him. When we see our weakness and inability to fix or change whatever has befallen us God rejoices! He says, “Yes, now you are getting it!”
When your heart begins to look at what God wants to accomplish in the suffering is when you begin to grow wise, and when you let go of the independence and insistence that you can fix it is when we begin to grow and change.
Join the Conversation
How have you reaped the harvest of growth and change as a result of a time of suffering?