The Purpose of Suffering

“We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive his poured-out life, and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him may then pour ourselves out for others.” —Elisabeth Elliot

Why do bad things happen to good people? It’s the age-old question! And probably, at some point or another, every person alive has asked it.

On top of our personal sufferings, we’ve experienced horrific tragedy as a nation … 9/11, mass shootings at concerts, events, and schools, and so much more.

Now, we can add the “Pandemic of 2020” to the list.

While we can’t always answer difficult questions with certainty, here are the things we do know:

God did not create evil and suffering. His creation was perfect — “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Suffering was introduced when mankind, imbued with free will, chose to disobey. Suffering is a result of sin.

God uses suffering for His good. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

This is great news! It gives meaning and purpose to our suffering. Romans 5:3-4 says God uses suffering in our lives to produce perseverance, character, and hope. If we’ll allow Him to work, He’ll make us more like Jesus.

Not only that, but He’ll use our suffering to help us reach others with the Good News of Christ.

Remember the story of Joseph? His brothers sold him into slavery, and he spent time in prison after being falsely accused. Through it all, he trusted the Lord and followed Him, and — in the end — he became second-in-command in Egypt and was used by God to save the people of Israel during a time of famine.

Years after his brothers betrayed him, Joseph confronted them and said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

You might think God can’t use your suffering. That it’s too great, too catastrophic, for any good to come out of it.

But remember the work of Jesus on the cross. God took the very worst of circumstances, the death of His Son, and used it to redeem mankind. The most horrific of suffering was necessary to offer us freedom, forgiveness, and the promise of an eternity in heaven!

Just as a choice was presented to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, you can choose how you respond to suffering. Bitterness? Or blessing? If you will allow Him, God will use your suffering to define and develop your character … and ultimately, achieve His purposes for your life!

My prayer this week — Lord, help me to see suffering as a means to grow closer to you, refine my character, and become a brighter light to the world! It is not your desire for me to suffer, and yet you’ve promised to take my suffering and turn it into something good. I don’t want to grow bitter … I want to be better! A better, more faithful servant. Please help me develop godly character and perseverance. Thank you, Lord, for promising to turn my suffering around!