The Blessing of Suffering
Through human eyes and traditional thinking, it’s very difficult to see any value in one’s suffering. It just doesn’t make sense. Pain hurts, so obviously, something is wrong and something needs to change. Lack of pain or loss of pain must mean we’re moving in the right direction. Right? We have names for people that enjoy pain or put themselves in those kinds of positions, and the connotations are not good.
Even Jesus seemed to want to remove or lessen pain in people’s lives. Take the Sermon on the Mount for example:
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
And in other places:
The news about Him spread throughout all Syria;
and they brought to Him all who were ill,
those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics;
and He healed them.
Then He got up and left the synagogue, and entered Simon’s home.
Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him to help her.
And standing over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her;
and she immediately got up and waited on them.
And in the Old Testament (also referring to Jesus)
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
So in light of these passages which show that Jesus wanted to comfort His people, we should seek comfort, right? We should attempt to remove suffering by any means necessary, right? Not necessarily. There are hidden gifts in suffering. I’d like to reflect on a few I’ve discovered.
Suffering grows our awareness of brokenness
One such gift in suffering is called brokenness. Brokenness is our awareness of our inability to solve our own problems or be our own master. Its when we realize that the best we have to offer isn’t good enough and won’t suffice. At that moment we have a choice. Do we continue to press on, attempting to reignite the lie that “we can do this”, or do we surrender to a good God’s mercies, crying out to Him for provision? The former makes you tired. The later will bring freedom. Suffering then can lead us to a place of freedom from our worldly and fleshly thinking and into the truth of who God is and who He wants to be for us.
Suffering Increases our capacity to help others
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry,
both of having abundance and suffering need.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.
As we endure suffering we learn what specific kinds of suffering look like, feel like, how they start, how healing can take place. We learn how to have hope in the midst of the pain and learn tools to keep our thoughts in check. All these things lead us to greater empathy for others who will go through similar kinds of trials. You have to decide, will you embrace your suffering as a process that can be used to help others or make excuses to stay “stuck”. If you choose to see the value in suffering you will have something (after your own healing takes place) to offer others in a similar situation. You will become a blessing to others. Consider it this way, how much would you have appreciated if someone would have come alongside you in your times of suffering who intimately understood what you are going through? Wouldn’t that make all the difference? You can be that person for someone else. Therefore suffering builds your capacity to help others.
Suffering also associates us with Christ and his purposes.
2 Thessalonians 1:4+5
therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.
This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.
The world’s view is that mankind is inherently good and therefore all suffering is bad. But God’s perspective of suffering is different. We live in a fallen world, one that is riddled with sin. It is therefore natural to endure suffering in a sinful world. Those chasing after their own desires can easily hurt others. Likewise, when we choose to disobey God’s perfect design for ourselves, we end up settling for something less, which often comes with pain.
But Jesus talks about suffering in a different way. He says that there is a privilege in “partaking in His sufferings”. (1 Peter 4:13) That is, He suffered in order to bring healing and hope to others. Since we are His kids, we too can partake in that same suffering for the betterment of the world. Often times this comes in the form of persecution. (People reject Christ and therefore they reject those who follow Christ.) But if it wasn’t for Christ standing up for something different, namely the truth of the Kingdom of God, no one would have been the wiser. Someone has to represent the truth and be willing to pay the price on behalf of those who would be recipients. Are you called to suffer so that others can see the Gospel lived out? Perhaps your suffering is for others more than yourself. Ask your Heavenly Father.
Suffering shows the world that something is different in us
2 Timothy 1:12
For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
It is one thing to say that you “believe in” a product or person when there is no cost, but when you have a gun to your head and your life is on the line, what you stand up for carries a different weight. When you have everything to lose and you stand by something, at very least, people know you’re serious. At most, they may choose to join you in your convictions.
When Christians stand up for the Gospel (the good news of Jesus), even at great personal cost it communicates a passion and belief system that is steadfast. It bears little weight in America today to say you go to church, but if you say you would die for someone else because you know Jesus and they don’t yet, that speaks of true sacrifice and dedication to a greater ideal. Suffering on behalf of others shows the world that there is more to you than the typical person. Why would you give of yourself freely for another? Only the love of God can truly bring this about in a joyful way.
Suffering produces good character in us
James chapter 1 is a great picture of the value of suffering and trials. “Take Joy,” Jame’s says, “When you face trials of many kinds because you know that the sting of our faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2) Sometimes our suffering is designed to test us. Much like metal melts when placed under extreme heat. So our lives melt under the pressure of trails and suffering. Similarly, the unnecessary things in our lives (the dross) floats to the surface so it can easily be lifted off and taken away. There are times in our lives when we suffer for doing wrong. Take some quick advice and “Stop It!” J However other times the fire is God ordained to give you an upgrade. In these cases, embrace it! It will produce better character in you as you allow the Holy Spirit to do what He has set out to do. You’ll be freer after the process is over and freedom always feels good!
Suffering gives God an object in us to bless
1 Peter 2:18+19
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.
For this finds favor,
if for the sake of conscience toward God
a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.
You may not agree with me on this point, and that is ok. But I tend to believe that suffering unjustly puts a target on our head for blessing and provision. Our Heavenly Father is a just God, loving, and merciful. He can’t stand to see His kids get bullied. So what does He do? He blesses! That doesn’t mean His response is immediate, but it is always timely. It also doesn’t mean that it correlates to earthly blessings or wealth. No, it may be something we receive in Heaven. Never-the-less, He blesses us for our righteous suffering. Not just in character upgrades. Not just in opportunities to serve others, but personally. Think of it, would you do anything differently for your kids in a similar situation? Wouldn’t you draw them in and uniquely love on them? Father does the same thing.
Suffering may come from the enemy, but the outcome will be a blessing to us and all those involved
I’ve endured much suffering in my life, and I’m sure there is more to come. While I wouldn’t necessarily “sign up” for suffering, I am realizing its value more and more. I’m seeing that God knows what He’s doing and I can trust Him more with my suffering. I can trust that He will rescue when the time is right. He will reveal sin in my life that may cause me to suffer more than I need to. He will remind me of the value of suffering for others. He points me back to the truth that I’m not alone and He always leaves a way out. (Deut 31:6, 1 Cor 10:13) So instead of getting upset and pouty when you experience suffering, take a broader perspective. What is being accomplished in your life through the suffering? Take courage and have hope. God is ALWAYS up to something good!
Father, I thank you that I can trust you with my pain and suffering. I don’t always understand it, but you do. You won’t put me in a bad place nor allow me to stay somewhere I shouldn’t be for too long. I ask that you reveal the truth to me at this moment. What is this suffering accomplishing? What is its source? If it is from the enemy I ask that you protect me. If it is from personal sin I repent and ask that you cleanse me. If it is from persecution then strengthen me. If it is discipline to build up my character than give me everything I need to endure and pass this trial. I thank you that you always have my best interests in mind. I choose to trust you. You are trustworthy. I thank you for being close to me, especially when things are painful. I believe in you! Accomplish your work in me! Amen