“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
- Romans 5:3-5
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ.”
- 2 Timothy 2:3
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
- 1 Peter 1:6-7
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
- C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (HarperCollins, 2002), p. 91
“There is nothing accidental, or fortuitous, or contingent about God’s work. It is all planned and worked out from the beginning right until the end. In our experience it comes to us increasingly, but in the mind and purpose of God, it is already perfect and entire.”
- D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Why Does God Allow Suffering?, p. 122
“…God wills that the mission of the church advance through storm and suffering.”
- John Piper, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, p. 91
“Suffering, for the Christian, is a vocation – we are called to suffer.”
- Dan McCartney, Why Does it Have to Hurt? – The Meaning of Christian Suffering, p. 101
Here’s a promise - Christians will suffer. In the words of one author, suffering is not a matter of if, but, when. For all of us suffering has already come or is soon coming. In the mystery of God’s wise providence suffering is sent to every true Christian to serve purposes that only God-directed suffering can. We may recoil at the prospect and promise of suffering, but it is precisely in the crucible of affliction that God accomplishes His most enduring work. And though suffering is not salvific (securing redemptive favor with God), it does have a sanctifying effect. With the effectual work of the Spirit, suffering changes us and makes us more like our Savior. God uses the crucible of suffering for our good and His glory.
In reading through a sermon by Puritan John Owen on affliction he commented that suffering and affliction have an effect upon the Christian that nothing else can have. I know that suffering has had this effect in my own life. Some of the suffering Judy and I have experienced I never want to experience again, however, each time I think about these sufferings I thank God for what He has accomplished through them. There have been severe trials that have come that have served God’s purposes far more effectively than anything else imagined. Suffering is not some foul fiend to steer clear of. Suffering is the handmaid of God’s sanctifying purposes. In the Christian suffering is a sure indication of the presence of sanctifying grace.
As Christians, here are a few things to remember about suffering –
1) Suffering is an indication of sonship (Hebrews 12:6-11).
2) Suffering is a sign of Divine love and not Divine abandonment. We only have to look at the Cross to see God’s favor to sinners in the grandest display of suffering (Romans 8:32).
3) Christ is identified with His people and His people are identified with Christ in suffering.
4) All suffering is God-ordained.
5) Suffering is designed to bear good fruit in us.
6) Some suffering will not make sense this side of heaven.
7) All suffering will make sense in heaven.
8) Suffering provokes us to bear with one another, pray for one another, and love and serve one another.
9) Suffering, no matter how difficult, brings God glory and serves our good.
10) There are things God can accomplish in us, both individually and as a church, that come about only in the crucible of suffering.
As God inevitably brings suffering our way may we resolve to embrace it with great gratitude, love for Him, and confidence in His grace-filled purposes.