Going through difficult times sure doesn’t feel good. Often we don’t have any idea why or how any good could come of it, but the Bible speaks about the lessons and benefits we can gain from suffering. I have found seven of them that helped bring my own struggles into focus.
1. Suffering produces intimacy with God.
Job 42:5 says, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.” Job learned more about God through his suffering. I believe that is one of the greatest benefits of struggle if we draw near to Him during the trial. When we are going along in Happyland, we don’t have as much motivation to meditate on God’s Word or to pray or stop and listen to Him. It’s during our times of suffering that we draw near to hear Him and that will lead us into a closer relationship and intimacy with God.
2. Experiencing God on a Deeper Level.
It just follows that greater intimacy with the Lord will lead to a deeper relationship with Him. The closer we get to someone, the more we understand the person and the greater we feel we can rely upon them. The same is true with God. The deeper we go, the more we will be able to trust Him even in our darkest hours.
3. Equips us to comfort others in need.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” I know how my own struggles have given me experiences that I have been able to share with others to help them through similar issues. That’s the whole reason for this blog and my Facebook group.
4. Comfort comes easier from those who’ve struggled.
People who are suffering tend to feel more comforted by those who have been there. I think that is why the Bible details so much of Job’s and Paul’s struggles. We not only gain comfort from reading about these men, but as Paul writes, we can use our own struggles to comfort others because they will know that we truly understand.
5. Suffering gives us strength.
I know it seems counter intuitive, but if you think about it, both Job and Paul were stronger for the suffering they endured. Paul’s courage is evident as I shared a few weeks ago. It’s very much like our muscles that atrophy if not used and strengthen as we work out. Our courage, is much like that. It’s strengthened when we need to use it. I had ankle surgery and wasn’t able to walk for months. I’m now working to gain back the muscle I lost in my right foot which is now visibly thinner than my left. My suffering has given me strength to move forward because I see many of the problems that come my way now more like small bumps in the road where as I had once seen them as mountains.
6. Suffering produces growth and maturity.
James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” I know it sounds like there should be an easier way to gain growth and maturity, but there really isn’t. Remember when your mother called your aches growing pains? And how companies that grow into large organizations have growth problems to deal with? Well, it’s the same with us. We cannot grow and mature without some growing pains…suffering.
7. Suffering conforms us to God’s image.
Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” If you think about it, Jesus did the ultimate suffering for the good of us all. Our suffering, though to us humans, feels so bad, it can’t compare to what Jesus suffered. And think about how the Father must suffer seeing His Son and so many of His children suffer. All parents hearts ache when their children struggle. As we suffer trials, we become more like Jesus and closer to the Father.
Suffering is no fun. I’ll be the first to admit that I’d never choose it and would be the first to admit I’ve prayed for it to stop every single time rather than having to go through all the struggles I have. But I am also the first to admit that, without those same struggles I’d have prayed away, I wouldn’t be the person I am today with a more intimate, deeper relationship with my God, the ability to comfort others for I have also struggled, and the strength, growth and maturity to be more conformed to God’s image. What about you?