Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word … It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.
When we come face-to-face with suffering, whether in our own lives or in the lives of others, we often wonder why those of us who profess belief in God still suffer. Doesn’t God love us? What could His purpose be in our suffering?
When the Bible addresses the issue of pain and suffering, it does so within the framework that God is good and all-powerful and has an eternal plan to create a people who are His very own, to make them into the image of His Son, and to bring them safely to glory (Titus 2:14; Romans 8:29; 2 Timothy 4:18). He will do whatever it takes to achieve those objectives—even if it means permitting temporary sorrows.
Here are some examples of what suffering can achieve:
• Suffering brings commonality. Most suffering is actually just the reality of living in a fallen, imperfect world. We all experience pain, sickness, and grief. The righteous and the unrighteous alike see the sun and feel the rain (Matthew 5:45). The righteous and the unrighteous alike live with the effects of suffering.
• Suffering is corrective. As a father disciplines his children in order for them to know and do the right thing, so God sometimes uses suffering to get us back on the right path when we are going astray (Hebrews 12:5-13).
• Suffering is constructive. Not only can suffering correct us, but it can also build character within us (James 1:2-5). Have you ever looked at people and wondered, “How did she become so hopeful? How is he so empathetic with my brokenness?” It’s likely because they’ve gone through suffering, grown from it, and learned to care for others through it.
• Suffering is glorifying. God always works through suffering to bring Himself glory, even years, decades, or generations later. As with the blind man in John 9, God can use a life of pain or disappointment to eventually display a miraculous example of His own power. We may question why we are going through a difficult experience, but somewhere along the journey of our days, we may realize, “Oh, that’s why I went through such pain; it is for this exact moment, that God may be glorified.”
• Suffering is cosmic. While not all suffering is part of a great spiritual drama, some suffering certainly is. Job is perhaps the most profound example of this, as God used him to demonstrate before Satan that a person can love and trust God for who He is and not merely for what someone can get out of Him (Job 1).
The truth is, you will suffer in life. But you do not have to suffer without hope. You can remember God’s greater purposes through suffering. The question you and I ultimately need to ask ourselves is not “Why?” but “Will I…?” Will I believe God’s promises? Will I cling to God’s purposes? Will I trust Him?
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Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company, thegoodbook.com. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.