Is God Doing Anything Good in Your Pain?
Nobody enjoys suffering just for suffering's sake. Well, slightly (or very) strange people may. But we all do suffer. What are we to make of it? How should we respond? Well, certainly Christians should seek relief, help, and healing from God. But that’s not it. We should trust that God is doing something good smack dab in the middle of it. You may not like to hear that, but it is true and will transform your life if you know God is at work for your good in your pain.
One of the strangest commands in the bible is “count it all joy when you endure trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). This doesn’t mean we jump up and down like a kid in the bounce house, “Yippee!” But James does mean count it joy. And not just some joy, but all joy. And not just in small trials or big trials, but in trials of various kinds – big, small, physical, emotional, financial, relational, vocational, short-term, and long-term. It is important to remember that Christ has satisfied the wrath of God against our sins. Therefore, our suffering, even though God is sovereign over it all, is not his wrath because of sin. Jesus drank that cup all the way to the bottom.
Okay, so what is God up to in my suffering? Here are five truths you can take to the bank.
Suffering purifies our faith. An artificial faith is worthless. Genuine faith, however, is more precious than gold. It is more valuable than all the money in the world. It is more to be desired than health, comfort, ease, and luxury all combined! This is how God sees our faith and, therefore, we should as well. The outcome of our faith is, by the way, the salvation of our souls. Pretty big deal. So God will see to it that our faith does not falter; he will make sure it is sufficiently tested and purified.
In this [eternal inheritance] your 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 and the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).
Suffering purifies your faith, making you fit to receive praise, glory, and honor from the Lord Jesus himself!
Suffering produces endurance. What’s the big deal about endurance? Well, quite a lot actually. Only those who endure to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13). But a teeth-grinding, stoic, robotic, unhappy endurance is no Christian endurance. We want none of it! Thankfully God doesn't either. Let’s follow Paul’s wisdom in Romans 5:3-5:
We also 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.
Rejoice in your suffering because God is working through it to make you strong, holy, and hopeful in his love.
Suffering now produces greater glory in the future. There are myriad verses stating how big and worth it our reward will be in eternity in relation to difficulties in this life. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake… rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven (Matthew 5:10-12). But there is also evidence that our suffering now is actually accruing a greater glory in eternity. Paul says as much in 2 Corinthians 4:17,
For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
Think about this. Your life is short. Eternity is long. Heaven and hell are real. Suffering now is preparing or producing or accomplishing a weighty and glorious eternity for you.
Suffering helps us see our limitations and weakness so that we trust in God and not ourselves. Have you ever been in a painful or hard situation where you finally cry, “Uncle! I give up! I surrender!” and found an almighty God there? This is what Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9,
For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
Paul says God was at work purposing the desired outcome of not trusting self, but God. To be brought to the end of your resources in order to trust God “who raises the dead” is a wonderful gift from God.
Suffering helps us love and rejoice in Jesus more. When other things such as comfort, health, money, friends, or status are stripped away, Jesus will still be enough. He is always enough; his grace always sufficient. Nothing can separate you from his love (Romans 8:38-39), he is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), will be with you always to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20), and he is almighty with all authority. No wonder the testimonies of bygone saints are legion that state in the worst suffering Jesus became the most precious. Peter, no doubt, was encouraging his suffering readers with this truth when he said,
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory (1 Peter 1:8).
Suffering Christians can have such sweet fellowship with Jesus that their joy is beyond ability to express and glorified.
So are you suffering? Then pray (James 5:13). And also trust God is at work in it for your good.