There Is Purpose in Your Sufferings
How do you naturally respond when hard times come?
We all suffer. It’s a part of life. Needless to say, some suffer more than others; however, we all experience trials. The question is — how do you respond to difficulty?
When troubles surround you, what do you usually do? Ignore it? Rush through it? Give into it? It’s worth examining and discussing such a topic because we go through it so often.
Suffering is a common theme throughout the Bible. One particular passage I’d like to bring to our attention is John 11:1-16 — The Death of Lazarus.
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. (ESV)
This story possesses meaning. It’s really the last significant sign in the Gospel of John leading up to the crucifixion event. If you’re familiar with the story of Lazarus, you know that Jesus raises him from the dead. But here’s something interesting to ponder — why did Jesus wait two days before raising him?
Think about that.
If Jesus knew he was asleep (dead) why wouldn’t he rush over there and raise him as soon as possible? I’d be like, “Let’s head over like right now and call every news channel! Call everybody up!”
Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He didn’t procrastinate or anything. He was working out a plan.
A few verses later, we get the inside scoop — “Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (John 11:14-15).
The counter-cultural truth found here is that Jesus allowed his loved ones to suffer for two days in order for God to get glory soon after. Here, Jesus allowed his friends to go through a difficult time of grief because he wanted them to experience an amazing demonstration of his power through raising Lazarus a little while after.
It’s not that Jesus postponed the raising of Lazarus because he was mean, or took delight in Mary and Martha’s suffering. Instead, he wanted to grow their faith and walk next to them through an amazing experience.
Sometimes, God takes us through uncomfortable and grievous trials that will result in praise. If we have saving faith, no trial is big enough to extinguish our faith (for more on this, read True Faith Treads All Trials). God is not evil. He is not confused. He is not worried. Suffering is not meaningless. He is in control and has a plan for absolutely everything — especially your sufferings.
Many will push back here in anger saying, “If God is so good, why would he allow anyone to go through hard times? That just doesn’t make sense.”
Well, it’s true that God’s ways don’t always make sense, but God’s ways are higher. Furthermore, um, he’s God. He doesn’t answer to us. He is the one who calls the shots and has a perfect plan in place.
God even has a plan for your physical disabilities. Listen to this — “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him‘ (John 9:1-3, ESV).
Even your disabilities are designed for a purpose. God is at work and has a wonderful design.
Naturally, we tend to complain to God, telling him how things could be better. Or we blame God for the way things are. Our plans seem much better than God’s at times. We’d just rather be comfortable instead of getting the opportunity to give God a huge amount of glory through suffering for a few seconds.
The Bible is clear — God is sovereign and there is purpose in all our sufferings. No hardships are wasted. We must trust that he is good, even though things seem really confusing as we now see dimly. Soon we shall see clearly how all things are working together for our good and for the glory of God.
When faced with a trial, how do you naturally respond? What is God speaking to you through the Bible verses mentioned? I’d love to hear your thoughts and connect with you.
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