8 Ways God Works Suffering for Our Good

8 Ways God Works Suffering for Our Good

In all these ways we see that suffering is not harmful to believers but beneficial. Thus we should train ourselves to look less at the evil of suffering and more at the good, to look less at the dark side of the cloud and more at the light. The worst that God ever does to his children is to drive them toward heaven, toward himself.

It is a conviction meant to quiet our minds and encourage our hearts: In some way God has a hand in our suffering. Whatever circumstances we experience can no more arise without the hand of God than a saw can cut without the hand of the carpenter. Job in his suffering did not say, “The Lord gave and the devil took away,” but, “The Lord gave and the Lord took away.” Suffering never comes our way apart from the purpose and providence of God and for that reason, suffering is always significant, never meaningless. Here are some ways that God brings good from our suffering.

Suffering is our preacher and teacher. It was Luther who said that he could never properly understand some of the Psalms until he endured suffering. A sick bed often teaches more than a sermon, and suffering first teaches us about our sin and sinfulness. Suffering also teaches us about ourselves, for in times of health and prosperity all seems to be well and we are both humble and grateful, but in suffering we come to see the ingratitude and rebellion of our hearts. We can best see the ugly face of sin and the reality of spiritual childishness in the mirror of suffering.

Suffering is the means of making our hearts more upright. In times of prosperity our hearts are often divided, half pursuing God and half obsessed with the world. Our hearts can be like a compass needle that swings wildly between two poles. But in suffering God takes away the world so the heart will hold to him in full sincerity. Just as we heat a crooked rod to straighten it, God holds us over the fire of suffering to make us more upright. It is good that when sin has bent our souls away from God, he will use suffering to straighten them.

Suffering conforms us to Christ. There is meant to be symmetry and proportion between the model and the canvas, between Christ and his people. Suffering is like an artist’s pencil that draws Christ’s image upon us. If we want to be parts of Christ’s body, we must want to be like him, and his life was a series of sufferings, “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). If Christ’s head was crowned with thorns, why do we think ours should only ever be crowned with roses? It is good to be like Christ, and conformity often comes through suffering.

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