Suffering and Character: 10 Ways God Uses Suffering in Our Lives
1. Suffering enables you to honor God.
Your words, actions, and attitudes paint a picture of your relationship with God. They can bring Him either honor or dishonor. They can be either a good example to others or a bad one. Do you remember what Job said when his family and all his worldly goods were suddenly gone? The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21; see also 1 Peter 1:6-7).
2. Suffering demonstrates God’s power.
It’s only when you are weak’that is, not dependent upon yourself’that you can be strong in Christ. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, wrote the apostle Paul, that the power of Christ may dwell in me’for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
3. Suffering allows God to give His grace.
Three times Paul asked God to remove his thorn in the flesh. God’s answer was My grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:8-9; see also 1 Corinthians 15:10; Ephesians 4:7; Philippians 2:13; 1 Peter 5:10).
4. Suffering prepares you to help others.
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, Paul tells the believers at Corinth that God is the God of all comfort and that they share not only His sufferings, but also His comfort. Because God will comfort you in the midst of your suffering, you will be able to comfort others with the same comfort and give them hope. In other words, it’s those who have been wounded that make the best healers.
5. Suffering helps build character.
Think of one person you admire deeply. Why do think that person has such great character? Often, though not always, the people with the greatest character have experienced tragedies or walked a path of suffering. Their life experiences have shaped them into something quite beautiful. How does this happen? Paul wrote to the believers in Rome: We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and, proven character hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).
6. Suffering encourages you to trust God.
Children trust more easily than adults do. Too often, children grow up to be self-sufficient, independent adults who don’t ‘need’ God in their lives. Yet, Jesus reminded His disciples that the king of heaven belongs to children (Matthew 19:14), and God calls us to be imitators of God, as beloved children (Ephesians 5:1). In 2 Corinthians 1:9-10, Paul makes it very clear that he needed God and that he trusted in Him: Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us.
7. Suffering helps you learn to thank God and praise Him in everything.
First Thessalonians 5:16, 18 tells us to: Rejoice always’in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Without a doubt, this is a hard task! Margaret Clarkson suggests a few ways to praise God in the midst of suffering: Praise God for Himself, His sovereignty, wisdom, never-failing mercies and compassion, love, grace, holiness, justice, and power. She recommends meditating on Scripture to help cultivate a response of praise.
8. Suffering helps you identify with Christ’s suffering.
How often do you stop to think about how much Christ suffered for you? He died for you while you were still a sinner and saved you from the wrath of God (Romans 5:8-9). Read through the entire chapter of Isaiah 53 and list all the words that describe what Christ suffered for you (for example, pierced, afflicted, forsaken). How does your own suffering change your perspective on what Christ did for you? (Romans 8:17-18; Philippians 1:29, 3:10, 2 Thessalonians 1:5).
9. Suffering helps you partake of God’s holiness.
You have the honor and privilege of sharing in the inheritance of the saints because God the Father has qualified you (Colossians 1:12). Paul says that he does all things for the sake of the gospel’that he becomes a fellow partaker in sufferings so that he may also partake of the glory that is to be revealed in Christ Jesus (1 Peter 4:12-16; 5:1).
10. Suffering offers you the chance to reflect on God’s discipline.
It is possible that God has allowed this suffering in your life so that you will learn from it. Punishment is not in view here’only a divine, purposeful opportunity for growth and change. God’s discipline, unlike that of an earthly parent, is perfect and will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness so that you can share in his holiness (Hebrews 12:8-13).
Excerpted from “Life on Hold” by Laurel Seiler Brunvoll and David Seiler, Ph.D
Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers, Inc. Excerpt may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.