To wrap up this series, let’s talk about suffering and why God allows it. Notice that I didn’t say that God causes suffering; He allows it. There is a huge difference. And here’s some good news: there is a purpose in suffering.
Here is the main verse that we’ve been studying throughout this series:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 1:1-5, NASB, bold emphasis mine)
As we can see, developing character happens through a process: suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and finally, character produces hope. We cannot achieve the character of Christ without some suffering, but we also need to remember that just because God grows character through difficult times does not mean that every difficult time is from the Lord.
The Purpose of Challenges
Jesus never sugar-coated things. In fact, He said in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” We shouldn’t be surprised when we suffer because Jesus told us to expect it, but we can still have peace and hope because Jesus has overcome the world!
So when we talk about suffering, understand that we’re referring to persecution, trial, and trouble — not a physical ailment. God is a good Father, and He doesn’t make us sick to teach us a lesson (though He’ll help us learn to trust Him during times of sickness).
God uses challenges like a refiner’s fire to grow us, purify us and shape us. The truth is, we grow and become more like Jesus during times of difficulties much more than we do during good times. Our faith becomes stronger, and we come to know God in ways we would never have if we had not experienced those trials.
God is ALWAYS Good
Never ever doubt or forget this truth. God can only be good; it’s His nature – His character. There’s no evil in him. In fact, James 1:17 says, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” That means that God doesn’t change. He isn’t kind and loving one day and vindictive and mean the next. He’s the same day to day, and He’s always good, always giving good gifts to His people.
He will be there in every situation. Psalm 46:1 tells us that He “is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Remember the three Hebrew young men who refused to bow to the idol and were thrown into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3)? God was present with them right in the midst of that fire, and He promises to be with us too.
When we’re facing difficult circumstances, God can use it for our good. In fact, that’s His specialty; He loves to take what Satan has meant for evil and turn it around for our good (Romans 8:28). Our job is to look to God and figure out how to respond to the situation. We press in to hear His voice. Then we respond by shifting our heart, resting in Him, or moving forward. This is why it’s so important to know God’s Word and God’s voice (which will never contradict each other, by the way).
Not Every Trial is from God
Jesus said in John 10:10 that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Clearly, the problems we face come from our enemy, Satan. But again, we can have hope because Jesus promises that we’ll have life in Him.
Many times we face trials simply because of the fallen world we live in. There is evil in the world, and sometimes evil prevails. Jesus even told us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Why? Because His will isn’t always done here on earth. Sometimes the enemy gets a cheap shot at us.
So is God in control? Yes.
Is He in charge? Yes.
Does he control every little detail? Yes … and no. God created us with a free will – we have the opportunity to partner with God and live an abundant life (remember John 10:10?), but we also have an enemy. But what the enemy intends for evil, God can use for good (remember the story of Joseph in Genesis?).
I like to look at it this way: Everything we go through is Father-filtered (think about Job). This means He knows all, He sees all, and He’s prepared us with everything we need to get through whatever is coming. We’re in Him, and He’s in us. And we’re more than conquerors of Christ (Romans 8:37). This means that the battles aren’t ours to fight; they are the Father’s to fight.
Our Response to Suffering
So, how do we respond when we’re suffering?
1. Look at every problem and recognize the promise in it. Hold on to promises like Deuteronomy 31:8: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
2. Remember that even though bad things may happen to us, God is good. He’s only good and has only good for you.
3. Remember that every problem gives you the opportunity to grow. Every test is an invitation to advance to the next level. You just have to prove what you know to be true. How? See it. Believe it. Declare and decree it. Jesus is the One who is the author and perfector of your faith (Hebrews 12:12). You are His workmanship, so He will shape you more into His image through times of suffering – He just needs you to partner with Him, trust Him, and surrender your will to Him.
4. Continue to be joyful, generous and do good in the midst of suffering (2 Corinthians 8:2; 1 Peter 4:19).
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