It is rare for anyone to say with a straight face that there are benefits to suffering and pain. One may even accuse the one who makes such a statement as being strange or out of their mind. No one wants to suffer and endure any pain. Human beings strive daily to increase pleasure and decrease pain. We buy food because our bodies know that the pain of hunger will kick in shortly. We buy health insurance so in the event of a medical emergency, our pain will be as little as possible. We buy our entertainment and such because it dulls of the pain of everyday life and allows us to have a source of temporary pleasure for a time. Yet, the word of God shows us many examples of the children of God suffering and enduring some type of pain. It's literally all over the bible!
When suffering does come, we sometimes find ourselves in a position of wondering why God allowed it to fall on us. We say, “Why would God let bad things happen to good people?” It should be first established that we aren’t “good people.” Scripture affirms that there is “none righteous,” and that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Roman 3:10; Romans 3:23). We are sinners deserving of the full justice and judgment of a Holy and Perfect God for our sin. A better question would be, “Why does God let good things happen to bad people?” Christ died for us “while we were yet sinners” and enemies with God (Romans 5:8). Do we sound like "good people?" A simple reading through what we call the 10 Commandments will reveal that we aren't as "good" as we think we are (Exodus 20:1-17).
We should not consider ourselves “too good” to be on the receiving end of suffering. In fact, we should expect it and prepare ourselves for it.
As a reminder, we must reaffirm what I discussed the last couple weeks concerning death: pain, sorrow, and suffering are the result of the disobedience of our ancestors. Sin cursed the once-perfect lives of mankind. Yet, even in the midst of this curse, God does His greatest work in us through suffering and pain. Allow me to list some benefits:
1.Suffering awakes us to reality.
As I have said previously, sickness, pain, and suffering, are like a splash of cold water on those of us who are sleeping. Or as Lewis puts it above, those of us who are spiritually "deaf." The majority of us get up and go about our day mostly devoting our attention to things of least importance. Yet, when suffering comes, our whole world is flipped upside down and we question our priorities, our use of time, and reevaluate our lives. Suddenly, the family we have been neglecting to pour more energy into our jobs takes precedence. All of the important stuff we keep putting on the shelf to take care of less important stuff is more likely to be taken off the shelf and dusted off.
It shakes the core of our beliefs and questions arise in our minds. A lot of thinking is done when we are lying on our backs in a hospital bed. It is in times like these that we are more likely to draw near to the living God. Suffering is good for us spiritually.
2.Suffering awakes us to our vulnerability.
Suffering has a way of humbling us. When we are good and healthy, we waltz through life as if we are invincible. Yet, when suffering comes, we are awakened to the fact that we are vulnerable, life is short, and could be gone in a moment. People who are awakened to their own mortality and vulnerability usually become better people and are more humble toward others. Suffering deflates pride, knocks us off our high horse, and allows us to truly see.
3.Suffering causes us to be more thankful.
When suffering comes crashing into our lives and life slows down, we gain a greater perspective and we are more thankful for the gifts God has given us in this life. Suffering and pain causes us to appreciate those times when we are not suffering and we are relatively pain-free. Speak to anyone who has recently endured extreme pain and we will see the gratitude on their face as they speak because the pain is now gone. The ones who have really learned a lesson in times of suffering will usually a raise a hand of praise to the Lord while doing so.
4.Suffering produces better servants.
When we have suffered, we are better servants to others that are suffering through the same ailment. It allows us to truly see from their point of view and be of better help to others. A veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder prefers to have a counselor that is a veteran himself and understands him. A cancer survivor is more fit to help another going through the chemotherapy. Only the cancer survivor who have experienced the side effects can relate to another currently enduring it. There are many servants out there who endured through suffering, felt the pain subjectively, and now wants to ease that same pain in others. As a result, they have dedicated their lives to easing that pain.
5.Suffering makes us more Christ-like.
No one suffered more rejection, anguish, agony, pain, and sorrow than our Lord Jesus Christ. To look upon His suffering knowing He felt the full weight of the world’s sin should give us strength in our suffering. Suffering helps us to see the world as Christ seen the world. A world that is hurting and crying out for the relief that only He can give.
God has a way of allowing suffering and pain to burn the impurities out of His precious children. Gold is burned at high temperatures to melt the dross away and on the other side, we have pure gold. The fire had to be turned up so that this could happen, though.
God is working in and through us and He does His greatest work through allowing suffering and pain in our lives. Broken hearts are the most conducive to the flow of the Holy Spirit. We should embrace suffering and allow God to be glorified in our response to it.