Taken by itself – there’s no question – suffering stinks. I know this firsthand from my battle with Stage IV cancer. Fortunately for us, the Lord never meant suffering to be just a cruel and bitter pill to be dutifully swallowed. Suffering is a path, never a destination.
To understand the role of suffering, we must first recognize the illusion of control over our lives. Suffering shatters this illusion, creating deep-seated need. This need creates a thirst for something or Someone with more control than ourselves. Without this thirst, we may never truly seek or know Him.
So in light of its ideal outcome, suffering still hurts, but managing the pain becomes easier. Consider five life-changing outcomes of suffering (and there are more):
1) Suffering purifies us. (Purity brings the highest liberty).
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:6-7
2) Suffering sets us free from worldly values. (They’re vain pursuits after all).
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
3) Suffering causes us to depend on God alone. (The highest form of living is dependent living).
For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead. – 2 Corinthians 1:8–9
4) Suffering equips us to help others. (Serving others sets us free from the horrible bondage of being exclusively self-serving).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
5) Suffering produces the supreme joy of being in love with Jesus. (Nothing compares to Him!).
And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory. – 1 Peter 1:8
Granted, there are many wells that promise to satisfy the thirst which suffering produces. Many turn to drugs, food, entertainment, sex, pleasure, power – and the list goes on. Yet when we embrace these five life-changing outcomes of suffering, we’ll draw close to Him and not drift away from Him. He knows best how to satisfy this thirst – in this life and the next. Drink deep in Him, my friend.