]Mel Lawrenz is Teaching Pastor at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Get his regular prayers and writings by signing up HERE.]
Most people who suffer something significant wonder whether there is any purpose in it. Our first responsibility to those who suffer is to show compassion and empathy. But there are answers to the question of whether there is anything redemptive in suffering. Yes, there is.
1. Suffering can lead to a renewal of faith (2 Cor. 1:9; 4:7; 11:30; 12:9)
Second Corinthians provides some very honest truths about suffering. For instance, in 1:9 Paul says that in his heart he felt like he was under the sentence of death, but that his circumstances resulted in his not relying on himself but on God who raises the dead. Suffering has a way of pushing to the margins of life all the things that are truly marginal. It points out what really matters in life. What will matter 20 years from now and 50 years from now. Suffering has a purifying effect. Second Corinthians 4:7 says: “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” In 11:30 Paul says “if I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” During days of suffering Paul was driven to the grace of God and came to believe that God’s grace was sufficient and that God’s power was made perfect through weakness. And so he even said he would boast about his weaknesses.
2. Suffering can equip us to help others (2 Cor. 1:4)
Second Corinthians 1:4 says that when we’re going through troubles and experience God’s comfort we come out the other side better able to comfort those in trouble with the comfort that we ourselves received from God. And nothing matters more in the life.
3. Suffering can chasten us in appropriate ways (Heb. 12:4-11)
Hebrews 12 teaches that sometimes when we suffer because of the poor choices we have made and when we live through the consequences of our own poor choices we experience a kind of chastening from a heavenly father who loves us enough to correct us. There are lessons to be learned through suffering. When bad things happen… sometimes the most important thing we can do is to look past the pain.
Are there ways we can get through a time of suffering in life by looking beyond it? Yes.
Many people tell stories of how God did things that they would not believe he could do during their suffering and after. This is the way of the suffering Savior.
1. Christ is a past pioneer (Isa. 53:3; Heb. 4:15)
Isaiah 53:3 says that “Jesus was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.” But he was not a victim. Hebrews 4:15 says that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses…”
2. Christ is a present help (Matt. 11:28-30; 12:20; Rom.8:26-27)
And so Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” The prophets said the savior would be one who “a bruised reed he would not break; and a smoldering wick he would not put out.”
3. God gives us a future hope (Rom. 8:18-21; 37-38)
Back to Romans 8, verse 18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…. Neither life nor death, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height or depth, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” When God’s word talks to us about looking past pain it is not to deny the reality of what we may be experiencing today. 90% of people who experience natural catastrophes believe things will be okay in the future. What that future might be—they didn’t know. None of us knows.