Suffering Produces Hope
Today we will look at the big question: why does God allow and/or create suffering? In previous posts, I quoted Joni Eareckson Tada saying, “God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.” I’ve also heard it said this way… God is more concerned about your holiness than your happiness. I’d like to address four ways these statements help us answer the question of “why?”
First, God desires us to depend on him alone. The world tells us that we should be self-sufficient; we don’t need anyone ; if we are strong we can make it on our own; everything that we need we can find within. These statements are false. Each of them come from a faulty worldview.
The truth is, we cannot make it on our own. We were not designed to be self-sufficient, nor can we magically find the answers within us. When we rely solely upon ourselves we always come up short.
2 Corinthians 1:9 tells us, “Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”
Suffering can feel like a “death sentence.” But sometimes, suffering is the only thing that can change our faulty worldview of self-reliance, and help us see that only a God who raises the dead can deliver us.
God is worthy of our dependence because only He can sustain us. When our eyes are opened to the fact that only God can give us what we need, the burden of self-reliance is lifted.
Psalm 68:19 reads, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” We can depend on God because He cares for us, and takes upon Himself all our burdens.
Secondly, God wants us to recognize that He is enough. Grace has been defined as the free and unmerited favor of God. There is much we could say about grace, but we will focus on how it relates to our suffering. Suffering can make us feel weak and defeated. Weakness and defeat create an intimate understanding that we cannot accomplish that which we desire on our own. We must rely on others. It is in this void that God’s grace can be realized in a fresh and meaningful way. Without suffering, the full extent of God’s grace isn’t always realized.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul writes, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Suffering causes us to see that we are weak and needy. It is God and God alone who can deliver us in our weakness.
Thirdly, God is interested in our character development. God loves us despite our sins, which is hard to fathom. But check this out… God loves us too much to leave us the way He found us. Call it character development, spiritual development, or discipleship – however you label it, God is concerned about shaping you. You are not a finished product. Suffering can help you develop into who God wants you to be.
Romans 5:3-4 provides insight into the character development that suffering can produce, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Did you notice that Paul said “we also glory in our sufferings?” Ouch. Suffering doesn’t feel glorious to me. But clearly there is something glorious about it; if we embrace it rather than loathe it, God can use it to shape us into who He wants us to be.
God wants us to become more like his Son, Jesus. Because this is not an easy process He is gentle with us.
Isaiah 40:10-11 says, “See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
God’s gentleness is truly a gift as he shapes us to be more like His Son.
Fourthly, suffering can produce an intimate connection with Jesus. None of us desire suffering. What we desire is to live a happy, comfortable life. This desire is built into us and is often what drives us. However, comfort and success were of little concern to Jesus.
Philippians 2:8 “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
No, we don’t desire suffering, but when we encounter it we can gain great perspective from it. Through our suffering, we meet Jesus in a unique way, we gain new appreciation for God’s grace, and we are shaped into the image of God’s Son.
Why does God allow, and even create, suffering? More than anything else in this life, suffering brings us closer to God.
First posted on: http://irresistiblechurch.org/bad-things-happen-good-people-part-4-4/#