Let’s face it, suffering isn’t fun. Nobody looks forward to be being broken. But as I’ve walked through various trials, God has graciously helped me understand that suffering can bring hope, comfort, and a deeper relationship with him. The broken aspects of our lives give us an opportunity to see where we are believing lies, and where God wants to renew our minds with truth.
Does God Care That I’m Suffering?
First: do we believe that God is indifferent to our suffering? If our prayers for relief have gone unanswered, do we conclude he doesn’t care about our brokenness? Here’s the truth: God’s heart towards us in suffering is compassion. As Psalm 56:8 says, “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” What a lifeline it is to realize how important our tears and pain are to God. He sees it all and his heart is moved to compassion.
As we start to sense God’s deep concern, we come to understand that trials are an opportunity to experience God reaching out, healing, and pouring love into our broken hearts. We learn more about who he is, and we develop a deeper relationship with him. At times, trials allow God to remove all the flimsy things in which we’ve put our trust so we learn to trust only in him.
The Motive for Prayer
Second: do we think the goal is for God to fix our physical problems? Though God does sometimes answer prayers for physical healing, he often puts a higher priority on fixing our broken relationship with him.
Yet, the unresolved physical problems can seem like a hinderance to us. We are tempted to think that God can only use our story if it has a happy ending—as the world defines it. However, God can use all the parts of our stories for his glory. We may not receive or see the ending we hoped for, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have joy in the Lord in the midst of brokenness. Maybe God’s better plan is to draw people to himself through our suffering as we continue to walk faithfully with him.
The End Goal
Here’s a third lie of the enemy: that God withholds the thing we desire in order to punish us. While there are real consequences for sin that can result in our personal suffering, we must also understand that God is perfect in justice; he will not impose a full penalty on us because he already imposed the full penalty on Jesus. Suffering can be the result of our sin or of sinful brokenness we simply can’t control. Either way, we are called to draw near to the Lord, to repent if we have sinned, and to trust—for we serve a good, gracious Father.
Knowing this helps us better understand the instruction in Hebrews 12:5-11 to bear hardship as discipline. Like an Olympic coach preparing a tailor-made regime, our loving Father knows what hard things will ultimately bring us across the finish line, our arms flung high in victory. Which athletes wear the medals? The ones who recognize their regime isn’t punishment, but rather essential training.
The same is true of us when we recognize that healing from brokenness often comes to the deepest crevices of our hearts through training in righteousness. I have seen God’s grace throughout the various trials in my life, as well as the many ways he has refined me through these fires. Yes, we will face suffering in this life, but we can take heart in the knowledge of the truth that God is working in all parts of our story, for his glory and our good.