“The very thing we are afraid of, our brokenness, is the door to our Father’s heart” – Paul Miller
Suffering is painful and we often feel broken in the midst of it and wonder when it will ever end. Reminding ourselves of God’s divine purposes in suffering helps us endure and find hope. This blog post will cover another six purposes of suffering. To read the first six purposes read my previous post here.
7. To Share in the Sufferings of Christ (Philippians 3:10)
10I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death
It is easy for us to be jazzed about the power of His resurrections, but not so much with participating in His suffering. How quick we forget that the goal of the Christian life is knowing Christ and becoming like Him. Suffering is one way in which Christ transforms and refines us to be like Him.
8. To Reveal Hidden Sin or Keep Me From Sin (2 Corinthians 12:7) (Psalm 119:67,71)
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” 2 Corinthians 12:7
My suffering or thorn in the flesh may be what I need to keep me humble rather than becoming conceited or proud. Matthew Henry said it this way, ” If God loves us, he will keep us from being exalted above measure; and spiritual burdens are ordered to cure spiritual pride. This thorn in the flesh is said to be a messenger of Satan which he sent for evil; but God designed it, and overruled it for good.”
When we lived in the Midwest in the late 1980’s, we had a good friend Nancy, whose brother had become a paraplegic in a car wreck. Her brother was quick to tell anybody who would listen about his story and how God used his devastating car wreck for his good. He would share how he was ignoring what he knew was true of God and His word and was choosing a life of sin prior to his wreck. He would then share the following verses from Psalm 119.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.
9. To Experience that Christ Is Enough (2 Corinthians 12:9)
8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
“The infliction was not indeed removed; but there was a promise that the favor of Christ would be shown to him constantly, and that he would find his support to be ample.” Barnes Notes on the Bible.
As Ann Voskamp says in her book The Broken Way, “our weaknesses can be a container for God’s glory.”
At the conference last week, Nancy Guthrie shared how God does His best work with empty. God fills Sarah’s empty and too old womb with a son named laughter. He also filled the virgin Mary’s young, empty womb with His Incarnate Son.
Christ’s sufficient grace where we are weak and/or empty is always available.
10. To Discipline Me for Holiness (Hebrews 12:10-11)
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.
Truly, discipline is not something any of us enjoy while either dishing it out as parents or taking it in. As v. 11 teaches, it is scarcely enjoyable and mostly sorrowful. Yet, the benefits are like a field producing abundant crops at harvest time: “it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” God’s discipline, though at times painful, produces His righteousness in us, His children, simply because He loves us. May we, as we go through discipline, pray for an abundant garden of His righteousness and peace in our lives.
Someone once said in reference to discipline: “And so what do I say? I say let the rains of disappointment come, if they water the plants of spiritual grace. Let the winds of adversity blow, if they serve to root more securely the trees that God has planted. I say, let the sun of prosperity be eclipsed, if that brings me closer to the true light of life. Welcome, sweet discipline, discipline designed for my joy, discipline designed to make me what God wants me to be.” Wow! That kind of statement can only come from a child of God who truly wants to be molded to God’s will.
11. To Make Me Spiritually Mature (James 1:2-4)
2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
When we think back to times where we experienced greatest spiritual growth it usually is due to trials we were walking through at the time. Those trials of various kinds are what test our faith and produce steadfastness and equip us with spiritual maturity. That maturity and proving of our faith is cause for joy.
12. To Give Me Opportunity to Live Out Genuine Faith (1 Peter 1;6-7)
6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so 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.
Real faith is not just lip service to Christ. Trials remove the dross and impurities from our lives, just as fire removes the dross and impurities from gold, so that our faith is real, genuine faith. This genuine faith will be found to result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus returns. Let us pray that our responses to suffering will result in praise, glory and honor on His return.
There may be other purposes in sufferings, but these are the ones Nancy Guthrie shared at the conference in Colorado Springs. As we consider go through our suffering, we often question God as to why and what is His purpose in this. May we instead ask Him to reveal Himself to us in the midst of our circumstances and to work in us. May we also be willing to accept that we may not get our questions answered in this life.
Love & Prayers,