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Someone asked C.S. Lewis, "Why do the righteous suffer?" "Why not?" he replied. "They're the only ones who can take it." Suffering, when understood from what God wanted to do, prepares us to see greater things ahead, as our experiences usher us to recognize more impressive things towards the unseen. Bible characters provide key insights as to how God uses suffering for our good. Let’s look at a few of them:
1. With Job, God allowed suffering to prove a point that Job’s faith was not superficial.
2. With Joseph, God allowed suffering to complete his journey to fulfill the dream he received as Psalms 105: 18-19 stated, “His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him.”
3. With David, God allowed suffering in the hands of King Saul to prepare him to become the greatest king of Israel: 1 Samuel 24
4. With Paul, God allowed suffering to keep him grounded in humility, and as a result, Paul understood God’s purpose and rejoiced in suffering if it meant God’s presence in His life.
Beth Landers shared an excellent illustration of the role and impact of suffering in one’s life:
A man found a cocoon of the emperor moth and took it home to watch it emerge. One day a small opening appeared, and for several hours the moth struggled but couldn't seem to force its body past a certain point. Deciding something was wrong, the man took scissors and snipped the remaining bit of cocoon. The moth emerged easily, its body large and swollen, the wings small and shriveled. He expected that in a few hours the wings would spread out in their natural beauty, but they did not. Instead of developing into a creature free to fly, the moth spent its life dragging around a swollen body and shriveled wings. The constricting cocoon and the struggle necessary to pass through the tiny opening are God's way of forcing fluid from the body into the wings. The "merciful" snip was, in reality, cruel. Sometimes the struggle is exactly what we need.”
There are times that we forget that sufferings are God’s way of communicating His desired situation for us. The Russian novelist Fedor Dostoevski (1821-1881) once said, "There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings." Keep in mind that our sufferings can either be obstacles or opportunities and the only difference is how we view them. Furthermore, our experiences can either act as stumbling blocks or stepping-stones along the way. The difference is how we apply them at any given time. It does not depend on the circumstances we are in but how we react to them that matters the most. It is not what happens to us that we must be concerned with, but what we do with what happens that matters the most in life (W.F. Doverspike). How do we respond the right way, then? By allowing our sufferings the opportunity to increase our faith level, greater things are waiting for us ahead.
What can I say about suffering? Personally, I can attest that the sufferings I’ve confronted in my life molded me to where I am now. Looking back, no matter how painful the effects of suffering, my faith in God grew stronger and larger. Although there were times that I was tempted to give up but remembering God’s promises I received since I became a Christian believer came through for me every time. Here’s one that we can all stand on when suffering comes our way:
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
So the next time, you are experiencing the worst kind of suffering, remember what Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Let’s talk again!