There are people who say that God never wants His children to suffer, that He only wants “blessing” for us and that suffering is never His instrument for this blessing. This, however, is a lie and if you believe it, you will spend much of your life in despair.
You see, suffering is not the opposite of blessing. The Apostle Peter writes…
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled. 1 Peter 3:13, 14 (ESV)
My junior year in college was literally the worst year of my life. By the end of fall semester that year I was put on academic probation, and it felt like everything was falling apart…and I was a Christian. I had struggled with OCD and panic attacks, and my mom and dad didn’t know what to do. They wanted to help but had no real idea how to do so.
But God was doing a work in my life – I went into that year a proud young man. And by the end of the year, like Nebuchadnezzar after his insanity, I was deeply humbled, a different person, no longer thinking so highly of myself. And even more than that, God was doing something in my father’s life. I had been praying for his salvation since I had come to Christ 3 or 4 years before, and toward the end of my junior year, my dad, age 63, became a Christian. His words as I remember: “Son, I told you if I ever did this you would be the first to know, and today I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life.”
Later I asked him what led him to finally bow his knee to the Lord. And he said, at least partly in reference to what had been going on with me: “I just didn’t have the answers.”
In other words, hindsight has shown me that God was doing glorious things through the pain I was experiencing. He was making me more like Jesus, and he was showing Don Knowlton that he needed Christ. My dad is in heaven today at least partly because of the painful trial I went through that year.
The Lord works suffering out for our good, even if we bring it on ourselves. Romans 8:28 is our rock in this – God causes all things to work together for good to those who are called according to His purpose. Now Peter is going to go on to say, far better that you suffer for doing right than that you suffer for doing wrong, but the point is this: in God’s economy, suffering is often the instrument of blessing, not the opposite.
If you don’t understand this, whenever you suffer you will be in despair and unable to rejoice like the Biblical writers tell us to – because you won’t be able to connect the suffering with the often unknown good that God is doing. And He is always doing good for those He loves, even through suffering.
For Friday, November 13th: 1 Peter 4