What’s the Point of Suffering?
Suffering does not necessarily lead us into a deeper relationship with God. Prolonged trials can tempt us to give in to rebellion and distrust. But when we’re prepared to bow under God’s sovereign purposes, He enables us to endure suffering to the end.
The Bible clearly teaches that God is in control over all of our lives—the blessings and the trials. For example, in Job 1 we find Satan slandering Job, accusing him of loving God solely because of the blessings he has enjoyed (Job 1:9-10). In response, God commands Satan, “All that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand” (v 12). God’s sovereign rule extended over Job’s affliction and Satan’s jurisdiction.
What then can we say with biblical certainty concerning the purposes of God in our suffering? First, God uses hardship in our lives to assure us of our sonship. The experiences of discipline that He brings into our lives prove us to be His true sons and daughters: “If you are left without discipline … then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” Second, God uses trials to develop our dependence on Him. Paul realized that it was “to keep me from becoming conceited” that “a thorn was given me in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Pride can lead to a total downfall. God therefore may mercifully ordain experiences of deep pain in order to instill in us that sense of depending on Him. That humility is the soil in which all the seeds of His grace grow to maturity. Third, God uses suffering to keep us on track spiritually. It’s easy to wander when everything is going smoothly. But have you noticed how your prayer life can change with one visit to the doctor, or how your desire to call out to God can be strengthened by a shadow looming on the horizon? The psalmist noted this tendency when he confessed, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word” (Psalm 119:67).
As God’s child, you can live with the confidence that your heavenly Father knows best and is in control. When the present feels overwhelming and the days ahead seem unsure, you can trust that there is a purpose, hidden though it may be, and you can say:
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control:
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And has shed his own blood for my soul.
It is well with my soul;
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Do Not Grow Weary
3Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
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