Hardship is inevitable. It is a fact of life. In the midst of all his pain, Job said, “Humans are born for trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). Attempts at escaping suffering are futile. Those who act as if pain can be avoided are out of touch with the true nature of life. According to Scripture, struggles and strain are an inevitable part of fallen earth (Genesis 3:8-24). The Christian who lives primarily for a cushy, posh, and luxurious existence does not live by a biblical worldview. What’s more, he or she will soon be disappointed. It is for this reason that Peter admonished his readers, saying, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). Instead of pragmatically trying to escape suffering, we need to patiently embrace it. This will require an understanding of God’s purposes. Consider three.
Glory for God
First of all, God wants to get fame for Himself through our hardship. Indeed, His glory is the purpose of all creation. The heavens declare His renown (Psalm 19:1), and His people have been called to reveal it (Isaiah 43:7 and Matthew 5:16). Suffering is one of God’s choicest means of making Himself great through the lives of His saints. Think about it. While it is praiseworthy for us to praise Him for our blessings, it is even more spectacular when we worship Him in seasons of brokenness and burdens. God gets great satisfaction when we humbly trust Him in times of trial. Consider the way Jesus bragged on John the Baptist after the preacher was imprisoned (Matthew 11:11), and think about His vindication of those who will be slaughtered during the Great Tribulation (Revelation 6:10 and 20:4). God gets great glory out of saints who suffer well!
Shame for Satan
Since the Garden of Eden, humanity has had an adversary. His name is Satan. His chief aim is to defame God. His means in doing so is God’s people. By deceiving and discrediting them, he has opportunity to wag his finger in the face of God. Scripture calls him “The accuser of our brothers and sisters” (Revelation 12:10). He works hard to trip us up. Trials are one of his modus operandi. We learn this from the life of Job (Job 1:8-12 and 2:3-7). The Devil wants to deceive us in our difficulties so that we might be discouraged and defame God. The Bible says, “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour” (1 Peter 5:8). When we give God glory in our tribulations, Satan gets shame!
Sanctification for the Saints
Lastly, suffering is used in the sovereign plan of God for sanctifying purposes. He knows that there are some things we just can’t learn apart from trials. In His infinite wisdom, He designs and allows custom-made scenarios that He can use to shape us more and more into His image. The Bible says, “We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4). When you face hard times, embrace a posture of humility so that God can teach you what He wants to teach you!
Dr. Patrick Latham