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.

Leave a comment below.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

16 thoughts on “There Is Purpose in Your Sufferings

  1. Love this…I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s goodness and His glory. I think it’s interesting how quickly in a trial I can vacillate between being certain of God’s goodness, and then in the next breath wanting to climb into a hole and pull a tarp over my head. This is a good, simple way to think about trials though. He uses them to reveal His glory…and I have begun to learn, that I also am happiest when I live my life for His glory.

    Last thought…I’ve been thinking about what it means to “take up your cross”. How do I know if I’m doing that? What is my “cross” exactly? I thought and prayed about it and concluded – Jesus’ cross was to surrender His will to the Father’s, be obedient, and ultimately glorify God through His obedience. This made me think, perhaps my “cross” is to always consider – have I surrendered my will and are my resulting actions glorifying God? In the good, in the bad, and the ugly. I hope I always consider this question. Is God being glorified in how I live and respond to the difficulty?

    1. Wonderful thoughts Beth. Thank you for sharing. I think you’re on to something really beneficial there. Every Christian has a general cross to bear, and we all have our specific cross to bear. I believe it means to surrender our live’s to the Father’s will entirely. We’re called to lose our life that we may find it in Christ. God bless you.

      1. Yes, lose our lives to find them in Christ. I agree. It’s exactly what is required that gets my head spinning…especially in the culture we live in. It’s so easy to get focused on building your own little “kingdom” for yourself and your family. I’m always trying to figure out the tension there…I don’t think God intends for me to never enjoy the blessings He has given in living here…but when does that enjoyment become so self-seeking that I try to find my life in my little kindgom I have created, rather than losing it for His sake? I still don’t know the answer, but it helps me to think about it in smaller pieces…each day, with whatever circumstances I face (in blessings, monotony, or pain), how can I live so God is glorified? It somehow seems less overwhelming when it’s my consideration for each day, rather than for my entire life.

        God bless you! Thanks for getting me thinking.

        1. I’m greatly encouraged that you’re pursuing it. Its a life long pursuit! Each year we find more ways to rest in Christ as we give him more and more of ourselves.

  2. Lord I have come to the end of my own withstanding ability.Now you are carrying me,otherwise I won’t make it on my own.Thank you Jesus for carrying me and our family and all who have tried and failed and come to you.