Joni Eareckson Tada has given us many books on the subject of God’s tender care for His children in times of suffering. Joni strikes the chord of authenticity with us so well because suffering is the world she lives in 24/7, literally. My personal favorite is When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty, co-authored with Steve Estes, a pastor in Pennsylvania. The following list of God’s purposes in our suffering is from one of the appendices in that book.
Take some time to meditate on the wisdom of God as He works out His perfect will through our suffering. No wonder James, the brother of our Lord, commanded us to “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2)!
- Suffering is used to increase our awareness of the sustaining power of God to whom we owe our sustenance (Ps 68:19).
- God uses suffering to refine, perfect, strengthen, and keep us from falling (Ps 66:8-9; Heb 2:10).
- Suffering allows the life of Christ to be manifested in our mortal flesh (2 Cor 4:7-11).
- Suffering bankrupts us, making us dependent upon God (2 Cor 12:9).
- Suffering teaches us humility (2 Cor 12:7).
- Suffering imparts the mind of Christ (Phil 2:1-11).
- Suffering teaches us that God is more concerned about character than comfort (Rom 5:3-4; Heb 12:10-11).
- Suffering teaches us that the greatest good of the Christian life is not absence of pain, but Christlikeness (2 Cor 4:8-10; Rom 8:28-29).
- Suffering can be a chastisement from God for sin and rebellion (Ps 107:17).
- Obedience and self-control are from suffering (Heb 5:8; Ps 119:67; Rom 5:1-5; James 1:2-8; Phil 3:10).
- Voluntary suffering is one way to demonstrate the love of God (2 Cor 8:1-2, 9).
- Suffering is part of the struggle against sin (Heb 12:4-13).
- Suffering is part of the struggle against evil men (Ps 27:12; 37:14-15).
- Suffering is part of the struggle for the kingdom of God (2 Thess 1:5).
- Suffering is part of the struggle for the gospel (2 Tim 2:8-9).
- Suffering is part of the struggle against injustice (1 Pet 2:19).
- Suffering is part of the struggle for the name of Christ (Acts 5:41; 1 Pet 4:14).
- Suffering indicates how the righteous become sharers in Christ’s suffering (2 Cor 1:5; 1 Pet 4:12-13).
- Endurance of suffering is given as a cause for reward (2 Cor 4:17; 2 Tim 2:12).
- Suffering forces community and the administration of the gifts for the common good (Phil 4:12-15).
- Suffering binds Christians together into a common or joint purpose (Rev 1:9).
- Suffering produces discernment, knowledge, and teaches us God’s statutes (Ps 119:66-67, 71).
- Through suffering God is able to obtain our broken and contrite spirit which He desires (Ps 51:16-17).
- Suffering causes us to discipline our minds by making us focus our hope on the grace to be revealed at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:6, 13).
- God uses suffering to humble us so He can exalt us at the proper time (1 Pet 5:6-7).
- Suffering teaches us to number our days so we can present to God a heart of wisdom (Ps 90:7-12).
- Suffering is sometimes necessary to win the lost (2 Tim 2:8-10; 4:5-6).
- Suffering strengthens and allows us to comfort others who are weak (2 Cor 1:3-11).
- Suffering is small compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ (Phil 3:8).
- God desires truth in our innermost being and one way He does it is through suffering (Ps 51:6; 119:17).
- The equity for suffering will be found in the next life (Ps 58:10-11).
- Suffering is always coupled with a greater source of grace (2 Tim 1:7-8; 4:16-18).
- Suffering teaches us to give thanks in times of sorrow (1 Thess 5:17; 2 Cor 1:11).
- Suffering increases faith (Jer 29:11).
- Suffering allows God to manifest His care (Ps 56:8).
- Suffering stretches our hope (Job 13:14-15).
Out of His deep love for us God is more interested in making His children like Christ than He is in making us comfortable. The glory He receives from redeeming depraved sinners like us and remaking us into His image will be the song that fills the halls of heaven for all eternity (Rev 5:9-10). Since that will be the case in the future, let us pursue joy in the Lord here in the present.
[The above list makes a great personal Bible study or the basis for small group discussion.]
Joni also has a new pamphlet that will be of help to you: Making Sense of Suffering.