I need to be clear from the start; I’m using the term suffering as a generic term for problems, hardships, trials or miseries that comes into our lives regardless of scope or size. For the purposes of this discussion, suffering is anything that causes fear, anguish, pain or discomfort. It includes disappointments, discouragements and sorrows. I’m not talking here just about the great sufferings of life. I’m talking about even the smallest sufferings.
The most common human response to suffering is avoidance. We don’t like to suffer and we don’t want to suffer so we will do anything to avoid problems. But suffering is a fact of life – and it’s a fact of life that we desperately try to explain as if our ability to rationalize it somehow makes it easier to accept. As a writer in the New York Times observed, even when we can offer some plausible explanation for our suffering does that change all the many times when suffering leaves us with no seeming benefit at all, and only a resentment of those who tell us to look on the bright side and count our blessings and recall that time heals all wounds (when we know it doesn’t)?
Perhaps without knowing it, the writer has put his or her finger on the crux of the matter – suffering leaves us with no seeming benefit at all. But what if, in our haste to avoid problems, there really is a benefit to our suffering? What if there is a value in all of the hardships, the disappointments, the sicknesses, the pains of life? What if good can actually come out of our suffering? What if, in the eternal scheme of life, suffering is really on the positive side of the balance sheet and not the negative?
For the Christian suffering is not only a part of life, it is part of faith. We know that suffering is redemptive – Christ suffered for us the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:8). That in itself gives eternal value to suffering.
But what about our suffering? What value is there in the sufferings of our lives that gives them value?
Here are some random thoughts on suffering for you to reflect on. If you are struggling with suffering I encourage you to take the time to read through this list. It may not make suffering any easier, but it does show that suffering is not arbitrary; there is value in our suffering.
Suffering . . .
provides us the opportunity to minister to others (2 Cor 1:3-5)
forces us to look beyond our limited self to see something greater (Hebrews
reminds us of our mortality (1 Peter 1:24-25)
reminds us that something better is waiting for us (Hebrews 11:8-16)
produces thankfulness in us (Phil 4:6)
produces a spirit of rejoicing in us (Phil 4:4)
drives us to dependency on God (2 Cor 12:7-10)
motivates us to greater heights of prayer (Phil 4:6)
keeps our attention focused on the One who can help us (Hebrews 12:1-2)
provides us with an avenue to show God’s grace in our lives to others (1 Peter
increases our dependency on God (1 Peter 5:7)
creates in us a desire for something better – heaven (Romans 8:18)
affirms that we belong to Christ (Hebrews 12:4-8)
keeps us from becoming complacent in this life (Romans 8:18)
shows us the ugliness of sin (Romans 5:12)
clarifies the things of real value in life (James 1:2-4)
deepens our compassion for others (Hebrews 2:18)
brings the reality of heaven into sharper focus (Hebrews 12:13-16)
reveals the genuineness of our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7)
brings us into a greater fellowship with Christ (Phil 3:10)
produces hope in us (Romans 5:3-5)
For the Christian there is value in suffering even when we cannot explain it. Don’t miss what God may be doing in your life through suffering.
Stay in the Word