If our suffering is a consequence of our sin, God may use this as part of the chastening process, as a loving Father disciplines His children to shape their character and behavior (Proverbs 13:24; Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 3:19). Yet not all our suffering is the result of our personal sin (John 9:1-3). Once we are saved by placing our faith in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven, physical or emotional pain unrelated to our own sin helps to make us more like Jesus Christ.
As born-again Christians (John 3:3-8), we can identify with His suffering for us as He approached the cross, and on the cross, even though He was blameless, pure and holy (Philippians 3:8-10). The prophet Isaiah foretold that Jesus, the promised Messiah, would be a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Although He was wounded and punished to save us, we despised and rejected Him (Isaiah 53:1-12).
God the Father did not answer the prayer of Jesus to remove the cup of suffering from Him if it were possible, yet He sent an angel to strengthen and comfort Jesus as He submitted to His Father’s perfect will (Luke 22:42-45). Jesus understands our suffering, gives us mercy and grace in trouble, and helps us in time of need (Hebrews 2:9-18).
We should not be surprised when God allows to go through trials, as these strengthen our faith, refining it as gold is refined by the fire and resulting in praise, honor and glory when Jesus Christ returns (1 Peter 1:5-7; 2:20) and we stand before His judgment seat. As we share in suffering as Christ did, through fiery trials of persecution or other trouble, we are promised joy when He returns. If we suffer according to God’s will, we can trust Him to keep our souls and to enable us to continue His perfect plan for us. Not only is He our faithful Creator, but also our Redeemer and Sustainer (1 Peter 4:12-19).
God may permit us to experience loss – of health, wealth, power, cherished dreams, and even of loved ones – to strengthen our faith in and dependence on Him (Job 1). If we ignore His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12) and His more urgent calls, and if we quench and grieve His Spirit living in our heart (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30), it may take disaster to bring us to our knees and to call out to Him in distress (Psalm 34:18). He receives our broken spirit and heart as cherished sacrifices to Him, allowing Him to restore us (Psalm 51:17).
Even when we are submitting to His will, God may allow painful experiences to afflict us so that we gain wisdom and compassion to counsel others going through similar trials (2 Corinthians 1:7; Colossians 3:12). His light within us shines the brightest when we are in the darkest of circumstances. Job refused to renounce his God even when he had lost nearly everything he once held dear (Job 23:10-12).
The apostle Paul found the peace that passes all human understanding and perpetual joy in the Lord (Philippians 4:4,7) when he had undergone countless hardships and was imprisoned in a miserable jail cell (2 Corinthians 11:24-30). He was able to thrive in all circumstances because of His intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, Who provided for all his needs (Philippians 4:12-13;19). Paul teaches us to receive that peace by handing our anxieties over to Him in prayer with thanksgiving and praise (Philippians 4:6-7).
God’s grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in our weakness, so we have reason to rejoice in our shortcomings (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). We can even rejoice in our sufferings, as our perseverance through trials builds our character and gives us the sure hope of God’s love through His Spirit that lives within every believer (Romans 5:3-5). No matter how dark is the night of our sorrow, He promises that joy will come in the morning and that He will turn our mourning into joyful dancing (Psalm 30:5-12).
Once we begin to try to appreciate the limitless depths of God’s love, wisdom, and power, and to trust His grace and mercy (Psalm 119:76-77) to always work all circumstances together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28), we can begin to find the emotional and physical healing we so desperately need (Psalm 147:3).
Praise God that His compassion and mercy are unfailing, faithful, and new every morning, always giving us new hope and a fresh start, no matter what our circumstances (Lamentations 3:19-26).