Everyone encounters suffering, and we suffer for many reasons. Some things are beyond our control, like natural disasters. Maybe people who are led by evil cross our paths and injure us. Sometimes we suffer from making mistakes, giving in to temptations, or choosing the wrong person. God counts our tears and suffers with us as we do for our children but with more insight and understanding. I’ve quoted Romans 8:18 while going through difficulties, devastation, or even inconveniences. There’s a deeper level to this scripture, the most powerful part of it. His glory is revealed through us in suffering, but it’s not automatic; it’s simple but difficult and completely possible. When we make suffering work for us, then it loses its sting.
For I consider [from the standpoint of faith] that the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us!Romans 8:18
In Romans chapter 8, the apostle Paul discusses two types of living the flesh and the Spirit. So often, we suffer because we disobey God’s laws. God isn’t punishing us; it’s a simple precept that we live according to our Creator’s design and are blessed. He designed life in a way to bless us. When we buck it, we harm ourselves. This kind of suffering isn’t blessed, but turning from it changes our lives and positions us for his grace. We can make it work for us simply by turning away from the cause of the harm and asking God for His strength and wisdom. When Jesus is king, our suffering isn’t for nothing. He makes something good and beautiful come out of it. God is the great recycler.
17 For it is better that you suffer [unjustly] for doing what is right, if that should be God’s will, than [to suffer justly] for doing wrong.1 Peter 3:17
Pain with a Purpose
When we suffer, if we allow the circumstances to help us to be more like Him, we are flipping it on its end. Simply suffering is not powerful, but our response to suffering can position us for victory in spite of it. This is a simple concept, but it isn’t easy stuff. It’s some of the hardest things we’ll electively do. It’s swallowing our pride, praying for someone else who is causing our pain, it’s allowing God to work in us even if something isn’t our fault. I’m not talking about putting up with abuse, we should never feel that abuse is suffering for God. He doesn’t expect that of us. It’s about having the courage to ask God, “What do you want to do through me? How can You use this to make me more like you?” When everything in us feels like running and screaming, and we can pray for Him to change us, that’s when His glory is revealed. If while bleeding, we can reach up to God for healing while simultaneously asking for His will to be done in all of us, our pain has a purpose.