This is Part 4 of 8 parts in answering the question, “What are God’s purposes in why He allows suffering?” in the larger question “Why does a loving God allow suffering?” Part 5-8 will be posted beginning on May 29, 2014.
God Allows Suffering to Manifest His Character Through Us
Although suffering and agony are despised, the glory they bring of a soul dependent on Jesus far outshines the sun! As Christians come alongside fellow believers, the Body of Christ manifests unity of the Spirit as they seek His peace. Shared meals, benevolent support and helping hands all contribute to demonstrate the gracious hands of Jesus in supporting believers through their agony. Abiding Christians will not leave one behind. They will not allow one to remain isolated in crippling pain. They will deny themselves in order to render aid to disadvantaged and suffering saints. This may be during a fire, earthquake, tsunami or terminal illness. Suffering has occurred in the last 100 years more than any other time among the persecuted church for holding to the banner of Christ’s Truth. Truly the Church reveals God’s character of mercy and caring as Paul wrote,
19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Cor. 12:19-26 NKJ)
God’s people reveal His love and mercy in their care for one another.
This is one of the reasons why Peter exhorted the saints to not be surprised at the fiery trials of persecution and suffering,
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Pet. 4:12-17 NKJ)
Christians knew that suffering was the sign that God was at work in their lives and He would produce His character through them. Paul wrote,
3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom. 5:3-5 NKJ)
Paul made it very clear that God purposed to use every situation to bring His children into conformity to the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29). Jesus invited His people to learn from Him, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.” (Matt. 11:29 NKJ) As God uses every circumstance to conform us to the image of Jesus, we manifest His character. Many people become frustrated with the duration of suffering, even to the point of wanting to get it all “over with”! Yet in God’s sovereign will He often uses that duration to set us apart for greater spiritual growth, and ultimate service for Him. He also uses our suffering to allow others to come alongside and render support. Not only does God use suffering to manifest His character in us, but He also allows it to create greater dependency upon Him.
Part 5 will be posted on May 29, 2014.