Charles Swindoll in his biography of the Apostle Paul he asserts that “our theology gets fuzzy here in the United States because of our addiction to the creature comforts” to which we have become so accustomed.
Here is the general idea that many American Christians have, “Pain and suffering come from the devil. Since God wants His servants well and free of pain, healing and happiness are of the Lord.” (pg. 91 Swindoll)
As a result of our addictions to creature comforts and some faulty theology, many followers of Jesus do not know how to “suffer well”. Here is a simple truth that we often don’t want to admit. God uses suffering and difficulties in our lives to accomplish His will in us and through us. There can be joy, fulfillment and the “shalom” of God as we journey through less than desirable circumstances in our life.
Paul was an authority on suffering. Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 Simply read the entire 2nd letter to the Corinthians and you will discover much of the suffering Paul experienced in his life. I do not consider myself an authority on suffering. I have lost a brother and a father and I have experienced some difficult times in life but I don’t know that I can say that I have experienced true suffering. My wife has some ongoing health issues that causes her quite a bit of pain. I have a friend, Terry Ivy who I consider a godly man who has encountered a great bit of suffering. I love how he writes about God’s purpose in suffering and you can find it at TerryIvy.com and click on his category of “suffering”.
Paul teaches us that God does accomplish His will through our suffering. Here are a few of the ways that God uses our suffering and difficulties to accomplish his will:
- God uses our pain to allow us to comfort others in pain. Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Paul experience pain to the point of not wanting to live. Check our 2 Corinthians 1:8
- God uses suffering to keep us from boasting in ourselves.
Paul boasted not in his ability to endure but in his weakness. 2 Corinthians 11:30 Paul writes about having a “thorn in his flesh” 2 Corinthians 12:7 that ensured him having a humble spirit. Have you ever thought that God may use “thorns” in our lives to keep us from becoming proud people.
“Pain plants the flag of reality in the fortress of a rebel heart.”
- God uses pain and suffering to compel us to rely on God’s “sufficient grace” that He provides through Jesus!
We often want relief from pain and sometimes God grants it, but when he doesn’t grant relief, He will give us something even better, His Grace! Paul pleaded three times for God to remove the thorn and Jesus replied that his grace is sufficient and his power is perfect in our weakness. See 2 Corinthians 12:9
“His grace supplies more than we ned to endure whatever it is that threatens to undo us.” (Swindoll pg. 101) It is not always God’s will that we are healed.
- Pain also awaken us to our simple need for Jesus.
My father was one of the most independent, prideful people I have ever known and his self-sufficiency is what kept him from turning to Jesus. He suffered with illness in his later years to the point that he could not do anything for himself. In his realization that he was no longer independent and strong, he turned to trust Christ. He realized that he needed something outside of himself and it led him to salvation.
C.S. Lewis said,
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Let’s learn to suffer well in a way to bring glory to God and make Him known to people around us.
What are your thoughts on suffering?