We have a share in God's glory as His elect. The grace we receive from God through our faith enriches our lives. In following the Lord, however, the children of God inevitably suffer, for "we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). As the Lord Jesus suffered to save humanity, His followers must be equipped with a readiness to suffer.
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God (1Pet 4:1-2).
Why does God allow His children to suffer? If you understand the cause of suffering, you will conclude, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted" (Ps 119:71).
Causes of Suffering
God desires His children to be holy and manifest His glory. Man, however, fails to perceive God's desire and often falls into sin. Rebelling against God, we become corrupt. The infinitely loving God does not wish His children to continue in decadence. So He chastises, like a parent to his wayward children, in order that they may turn away from wrong.
This is one reason why God allows us to encounter adversity-that we may turn from our erroneous ways. Therefore, it is important that we examine our actions when our lives are fraught with problems. Remember these words:?
My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.(Heb 12:5-6)
The spiritual growth of God's children is Satan's greatest source of displeasure because our blessedness underscores his failure. Thus, he raises his hands against us, and we suffer if we give way to him. He stirs up trouble, causes misunderstanding, fans anger and even threatens our very lives. He pushes us to the brink of death and causes us to lose all we have. His objective is to make our lives so miserable that we leave God. From the sufferings of Job, we see how Satan can afflict a child of God. But it is only with the permission of God. If we remain on God's side, we shall ultimately see the blessings of God¡Xthe fruits of our suffering.
Suffering trains us to rely on God's strength. It is only when we feel weak that we will turn to God, and learn to lean on Him. Thus, it is in our weakness that we can manifest God's power and grace (2 Cor 12:7-10). God wants us to serve Him effectively, and He trains us through suffering so that we are purified from the ignoble, becoming a vessel for noble use, consecrated and useful in His house. He also wants us to know Him even better, to experience Him and to be spiritually mature. To achieve this, He needs to put us into the "furnace" to refine us. Proverbs 17:3 says, "The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the hearts." Joseph's enslavement and suffering in Egypt were part of God's will. Later, he rose to become a man of high position in Egypt. Truly, his past sufferings were transformed into future glory.
Sometimes the suffering we experience is actually part of God's plan. We pray that God will enlighten us so that in the midst of sufferings, we can still say with conviction that "we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom 8:28). The Lord has promised that if we suffer together with Him, we shall also receive glory with Him. Through our suffering, God makes us acceptable for His kingdom.
Paul says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Cor 1:3-4).
The tears, pleadings, and prayers we offer in our afflictions help us to learn obedience and submission to God. Our tears also soften our nature, making us more gentle towards others and drawing us closer to God. We become more sensitive to God's guidance and motivated by His love. Our social interactions will reflect these changes. We become more concerned about others and willing to comfort those in need.
Psalm 133:1 proclaims: "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" Unity among brethren is pleasing in God's eyes. Many children of God cannot live in harmony because they cannot love each other deeply. The rapport that should exist among brethren is absent. But if we have experienced personal sufferings, we have received comfort not only from God, but also from our brethren. As we realize the significance of being brothers and sisters-in-Christ; we strive to establish the familial spirit of love within the community of faith. We will instinctively protect others from suffering. Once we learn to love one another, our spiritual lives will grow and we can build up the family of God. Even when misunderstandings arise, we can sincerely forgive one another.
Suffering therefore teaches us to sympathize with others. From our own experience, we learn to have compassion for the pain or difficulty others are experiencing and through this, become a more magnanimous person.
The sooner we are prepared to accept suffering, the better. It helps to rid us of evil and leads us to heaven. It brings glory to God and helps others and ourselves to grow spiritually. Though we suffer now for a little while, it will result in tremendous future glory.
Benefits of Suffering
The Lord Jesus left us a good example: "For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Heb 2:10). Christ's perfection was revealed through suffering. If we seek to be perfect, we too should undergo the purging fire of suffering. Ordinary people seek love and enjoyment but are averse to suffering. Yet a person who has triumphantly passed through "the valley of the shadow of death" becomes a better, stronger person, mentally and spiritually. As he has received the Lord's strength in the dark moments of his life, he becomes more appreciative of the Lord's love for him. Looking back, he understands suffering as God's way of reshaping him to become more pleasing in His sight, to come a step closer to perfection. Therefore, when we are suffering, we ought to pray: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps 139:23-24).
Beholding God's glory
When we accept our suffering with determination, it is actually the beginning of God's blessing and we will surely see His glory. When we are joyful despite suffering, we can experience peace within us.?
Once, a sister-in-Christ's husband had a serious accident. The doctor told her that her husband would not survive. She prayed because she could not understand why God would let His children suffer. Then, in one of her prayers, words entered her heart:
Wonderful story—Jesus is mine!
I praise my Savior with songs of joy;
How great is His love,
Witness this grace,
I thank my Redeemer,
Jesus is mine!
Immediately, she felt a great sense of relief. She then understood that "the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).
Our Lord is a merciful God: "He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing" (Zeph 3:17). When we learn to be thankful and praise Him, God will ensure that we pass our trials. When it is time, He will change the situation. As for that sister, her husband miraculously survived.
Therefore, the sooner we are prepared to accept suffering, the better. It helps to rid us of evil and leads us to heaven. It brings glory to God and helps others and ourselves to grow spiritually. Though we suffer now for a little while, it will result in tremendous future glory.