This is part 3 of 5 parts answering the question, “Are there forms of suffering God allows that we will never understand?” in the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?” Parts 4-5 will be posted on succeeding days.
God Always Has a Reason for Everything
You may wonder about the answers to your questions. As you do, remember that God knows these answers and is always in control! You may not understand, but He is always in control. Not only that, but He is ALWAYS good and His plan is ALWAYS perfect, whether you understand it or not. If you humble yourself, you’ll be able to see that God is able to take every situation and work it out for His glory. When His glory is revealed through you, you will experience His blessing, and there is NOTHING better than that! There are two main purposes God has for His work in our lives. The first one is, as Paul declared,
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29 NKJ)
Paul uses the phrase “work together.” It is the word from which we get synergy. Through the Holy Spirit, God’s power works through every situation to manifest His glory and perform the work of sanctification in the believer. How is this related to you? Notice the purpose in verse 29. God’s purpose is that He is working in you to conform you to the image of His Son, Jesus. That process often involves testing, just as Jesus “learned” obedience through suffering (Heb. 5:5-9). That process is illustrated by the metallurgist who heats up the sludge of metal (such as gold or silver) in order to purify it. Each time he does this process, impurities float to the top and are removed. And each time he lets the metal cool down, he looks for his reflection in it, knowing that once this happens it is pure enough for him to transform it into other useable tools or art pieces. So, the first intention of God is to conform you into the image of the Lord Jesus.
The second purpose for God’s working is to increase your hope. It seems strange from the human perspective, but suffering for the Christian actually is designed by God to produce hope. Paul also stated,
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)
Although we often would choose a different course of action to help us conform to Christ, God has chosen afflictions to be as one of the primary means to accomplish this. The psalmist wrote, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word.” (Ps. 119:67 NKJ) In fact, he also said, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes. (Ps. 119:71 NKJ) Joni Eareckson Tada never imagined that a diving accident could be used to glorify the Lord or bless other people. But her ministry is touching thousands every day, because of her dependence on the Lord and her teaching others about how He is sufficient in all circumstances.
Part 4 will be posted tomorrow.