The Apostle Paul told the church at Rome “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4). One of the greatest things about Christianity is that it teaches there can be meaning in the midst of suffering. One of the things clearly taught in Scripture is that God can use the suffering in our life to produce character fruit
I am trying to come up with a new initial default response to different kinds of suffering that comes in my life. When a trial comes, I am trying to pause and say to myself, “I wonder what God is going to do with this trial, I wonder how He is going to make me better, more mature, more like Jesus?
I will never forget the time my daughter Sarah looked at me with pain and confusion and anger when she was two years old. I had to physically hold her arms down so the nurse could take enough vials of blood in order to find a way to treat her for the reoccurring malaria in her little body. She looked at me with tears in her eyes, feeling betrayed by her father in that moment. I so wanted to explain to her that I was doing something that seemed harsh to her in order to help her get better. I was doing what was best for her, but she couldn’t understand it.
We will never begin to grasp the idea of rejoicing in our sufferings unless we submit to the sovereignty of God—His ways are higher than our ways—His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). God is good and loving all the time, but when we deal with hard, daily trials it often doesn’t seem that way from our limited perspective.
Many times in this life, God doesn’t give answers to our why questions. Instead of always asking “why me?” maybe we could ask “why not me?” Better yet, instead of spending so much time asking God to explain the reason for the trial in my life—what if I switched to asking God to show me “how” He is going to use the trial to shape my character, how He is going to use it to point others to Christ—how He is going to use it to prepare me for heaven.
The Apostle Paul told the Christians in Rome, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). I know I need to be careful when I talk about other people’s suffering. Some people deal with horrible pain and suffering in this life and I don’t want to minimize that in any way. But I believe with all my heart this Scripture is true—your first moment in heaven, you will exclaim, “all the suffering I went through on earth was worth it!”
Reflections: When a trial comes into your life, train yourself to pause and ask the Lord to show you how He is going to use it to shape your character or give you empathy for others who suffer. If God doesn’t answer your why question now on earth, ask Him to help you patiently wait for the answer in eternity.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully even as I have been fully known
I Corinthians 13:12