“God uses suffering to strengthen our faith.” That was the quote of the day in Our Daily Bread, and isn’t it the truth? God allows us to go through suffering, and then He uses that to strengthen our faith in Him. Unfortunately, no one wants to actually go through that suffering to get that stronger faith.
Wouldn’t it be so much easier if God just gave us stronger faith? But the truth is, if we didn’t “earn” it through suffering that faith wouldn’t last. Just like the difference between giving a child a new toy and making him work to earn it. I have seen many times birthday toys tossed to the wayside, and yet the simple stuffed animal earned years ago still holds a place of honor in the center of the bed. There is simply a longer lasting value in what you must earn.
But of what use is my suffering to God? As the Bible tells me, “… all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose” (Rm 8:28). So if I am part of His family, then He is working even my suffering for good. How is that? How is suffering good? That’s a very hard question to wrap your mind around, especially when you are the one going through a season of suffering. In that moment, it’s hard to see how any good can come from it.
But it does. In our times of pain and weakness, when we have exhausted ourselves through work and tears, when we have worried and screamed through our frustrations, when there is just nothing left of us, we turn to Him. We speak to the Father more openly and honestly than ever before. We confide in Him our doubts and our needs. Our dependence on Him is critical because we can no longer depend on ourselves. And bit by bit, He reveals Himself to us. He gives us new strength. He supplies provision and resources beyond our understanding, because He is faithful.
Then, when our storm is over, and we rest on calm waters again, He calls on us to be the provision for someone else. Colossians 1:24 says, “… I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” This was written by the Apostle Paul, and it is interesting that he states he is filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.
Is there lacking in Christ’s afflictions? What was Paul saying there? No one could claim that Christ wasn’t afflicted. Apart from the holy work of salvation on the cross, Christ was afflicted. He suffered. He suffered the loss of a friend, Lazarus. He suffered loneliness. He suffered betrayal. He suffered alienation from his home town. He suffered separation from the Father. He suffered. So, how can that be considered “lacking?”
One of the most amazing aspects of Jesus is that He left heaven and came to Earth to be one of us, to share in our existence, including love and joy, pain and sorrow. But even though he clearly suffered, He could not possibly suffer everything in His short time on Earth. He never suffered the death of His mother. He never suffered the pain of divorce or adultery. He never suffered the loss of a child to miscarriage. He never suffered cancer. He never suffered drug addiction, or a thousand other ways that we suffer.
You see, one of the greatest connections that we can make with someone is in the sharing of an affliction. It is not joy. It is suffering. It is in that moment that we are at our lowest point that we need an anchor. We need something to hold on to that will keep us from simply drifting away. It is moments like those that believers get to come along side Jesus and minister to those that are hurting. And unlike Job’s friends that could not understand his pain, we need someone who has been where we are. It’s the widow who comforts the grieving wife who lost her husband much too soon. It’s someone who can look us in the eye and say, “It gets better,” and know that they know. Someone who can share the source of their hope that it does get better, Jesus.
This is true not only for the church as Paul states, but also for the unbeliever. If God allowed His people to go through this life without suffering, then we could never be a source of hope to this world. We could never come along side the lost to connect with them and to show them a God who loves them, a God who hurts when they hurt, a God who wants to restore them.
After all, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher,” (Lk. 6:40). Jesus was “Rabonni!” (Jn 20:16). He is the teacher. We believers should not expect to be above Him, but we should expect to be like Him. Jesus came and suffered so that He may save the world. We should also expect to partake in suffering in order to show the world our teacher and our Savior.
Lord, allow us to embrace your will, not to hide from it. Give us the faith, strength, and courage to face our storms so that we may be a help in times of suffering for others. To You be the glory.