I once was carrying a briefcase filled with Gospel literature for my ministry in a local jail. I would visit there once a week and pass out the literature (Bibles and Gospel tracts) to the inmates. Many of them were very happy to receive the literature. It gave them something to read during their times of boredom while incarcerated.
One time, while visiting the inmates in the jail, I dropped the briefcase and the edge of it fell directly on my big toe. The toe turned black and throbbed with pain. The next day I went to the emergency room at the local hospital to have the pressure under the nail relieved. They wondered how I had slept through the night and how much I had suffered.
There are many kinds of suffering in this world. As human beings, we all suffer. Some suffer much more than others. Unfortunately, some suffer to the extreme in pain and loss. It is often hard to estimate the level of suffering a person is experiencing because suffering is not only physical but also a mental and spiritual experience. Often, the internal pain is more intense than external.
BENEFITS OF SUFFERING
Suffering is never wanted, but there is an underlying benefit to those who in faith commit their ways unto the Lord. As followers of the Savior, the Bible teaches us about the many different ways that God uses suffering for our benefit. Let us look at three such benefits:
1. Suffering can enable you to transmit comfort to others in their time of suffering. We read in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV, “3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Without our own suffering, and the experience of the comfort of the gospel of grace, we would have nothing to offer to our fellow sufferers. The gospel of grace comes to us in the prayers and spiritual gifts of other disciples so that we can then join into this ministry of comfort and offer it to others in their time of need.
2. Suffering teaches us to persevere in order for us to mature in Christ. During a period of suffering, as His disciples, we must keep in focus God’s ultimate goal for our lives. The Bible tells us that God is at work in every aspect of our lives, including our suffering, to transform us inside out to become like the Savior. The Bible says in James 1:2-4 NIV: “2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James tells us that trials should bring us joy. We rejoice because we see the hand of God, the hand of Our Heavenly Father, at work sanctifying us and bringing our faith to maturity.
3. Suffering demonstrates the quality of our faith. Suffering reminds us how much we need Jesus and how we need to grow in our trust of Him. We find Him to be the Good Shepherd, who walks at our side and wraps us in His love during times of pain and uncertainty. The genuineness of our faith is exposed. It is easy for us to think that we are more mature in our faith than we really are. Trials teach us how to trust God in a deeper way. It is faith that has been tried, proven true, and strong that will remain until the time of judgment. Then, on that day, we will rejoice in the power of the gospel of grace that has enabled us to withstand the trials of this life. We will truly have a faith that is more precious than gold.
JOY IN SUFFERING
Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:7 NLT: “7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” Like James, Peter calls on us to have joy in the midst of our suffering. This is supernatural joy given by the Holy Spirit. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit that God gives us, by His grace, in order to soar by faith above the trial and see the hand of Almighty God at work. All of this is for the praise and glory of His infinite love and mercy.
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