There’s one thing for sure —we all will suffer at some point in our lives. It’s inevitable! We’re told in the Bible that in this life we WILL suffer tribulations. But when suffering happens, even though we’re warned that it will, it can bring about an internal battle within. We can start to question why God would allow this to happen to us. From our viewpoint it doesn’t make sense.
It can also bring about an external battle within many marriages (and often does) where couples start to turn on each other. This causes even more suffering, more questioning, and more chaos.
To combat this, we’re going to share some insights from something we heard several years ago in a radio message given by Dr Charles Stanley from Intouch.org. It centered on the ways that “God Uses Our Suffering.” You may even want to use the following points as a Bible study either separately or together. You can discuss how they could apply to your situation, along with the scripture.
Even if your spouse won’t join you in partnership while you are suffering, or perhaps you are suffering because of things your spouse has done or said, we hope you will find at least some of the information within this message to be helpful. Ask God to enlighten you, help you to use the information you can use, and join Him in partnership to battle that which is confusing you and causing you additional pain.
Here’s what we learned from Dr Stanley’s sermon. The direct quotes from Dr Stanley are in “quotation marks” and the rest is summarized:
The question is, “If God loves us, cares for us, and wants the best for us, why does He allow all this suffering that goes on in the world? He could stop it if He wanted to. But somehow, He doesn’t seem to want to. What we don’t realize is that sometimes when nothing appears to be happening, God is patiently working. A good definition of suffering is: ‘Anything that causes us mental, physical, or emotional pain or irritates us in some fashion.’” (See: 1 Peter 4:12-19.)
Reasons God allows suffering:
1. To get our attention.
(See: Psalm 119:67 and again in Psalm 119:71.) Sometimes God wants to get our attention to look to Him and pay attention to that, which is important to God.
2. To develop righteousness and maturity in us.
God may be in the process of building maturity in us and by allowing certain events to happen to us, He knows we’ll “grow up” and become more mature in the process.
3. To prune us.
(See: John 15:1-2.) “He removes attitudes and habits that are harmful to our fruitfulness.” The whole pruning process is used by God to cut back useless things in our life to maximize our potential as Believers. He sees attitudes in our lives that don’t belong there. Plus, He prunes off what shouldn’t be there. God can’t stand stuff in our lives that cloud our vision of Him.
4. To teach us obedience.
(See: Hebrews 12:5.) “Sometimes people suffer because of their own disobedience.” When we become disobedient we can expect some kind of suffering.
5. To teach us to trust Him.
(See: 1 Peter 1:7.) “He tests our faith in order to strengthen it.” An example of this is in the principle of tithing.
6. To teach us to depend continually on His grace and goodness.
2 Corinthians 12 tells us that when we are weak, we are strong. If we want God to use us, suffering is going to be a part of our life. God uses it to teach us so we will gain wisdom. “Suffering in life and being used by God are inseparable.”
7. To manifest Christ’s life and character in us.
It’s to help us to be living examples of God’s character. And God’s character shines forth in us through times of sanding, sifting and pruning. Whatever the form of suffering we encounter, there is a Divine purpose involved. “When someone meets us, they will meet the Son of God in us.”
8. To purify our hearts.
A pure heart is a righteous heart —which is the will of God for us. Purity and God’s power go together. “There is no power in your ministry unless you are pure.” Keep in mind that all suffering is not a result of sin. God has a purpose in allowing suffering in our lives.
9. So we can share in the holiness of Christ.
(See Hebrews 12:10.)
10. To teach us to give thanks in everything.
(See: 1 Thessalonians 5:18.) “You don’t have to feel thankful to express gratitude that God is going to bring something good out of your experience.”
11. To develop character and perseverance.
(See: Romans 5:1-5.)
12. To enable us to share in the sufferings of Christ.
(See: Philippians 3:10.)
13. To prevent pride in our life.
(See: 2 Corinthians 12:9.)
14. To broaden our ministry.
(See: Philippians 1:12-13.) An example of this would be: “going through an experience of suffering and loneliness that extended His influence.”
15. To reveal the evil nature of mankind and the righteous judgment of God.
(See: 2 Thessalonians 2.) In this chapter it says, “The wicked will be judged.”
So, how should we respond?
You can pray the following: “Lord, what are You saying to me?” “Lord, whatever Your purpose is, I surrender to Your will.” “Give me the grace to bear this until You have accomplished Your will.”
Here are a few more thoughts to keep in mind, as it pertains to suffering:
— “Our values determine our evaluations. If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us. If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to count it all joy. [This is what we’re told to do in James 1:2.] And if we live only for the present and forget the future, then trials will make us bitter not better.” (Warren Wiersbe)
Line Up Your Values
Ask God to help you to line your values up with His. When you do, your earthly suffering will make more sense.
— The enemy of our faith would like nothing more than to have marriage “partners” turn on each other. Marriage is a living picture of Christ’s love for the church. So why wouldn’t the attack be on marriage? This “picture” and you and your spouse are near and dear to His heart?
Please realize that if you’re fighting with each other, you’re not able to fight against the powers of darkness. You’re weakened in the battle. This is a great advantage for the enemy to take you and your marriage down, as well as cause problems on many different levels in the lives of those who witness the chaos. You need to fight the problem —NOT each other.
You, your spouse, and God can be a mighty force of strength. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
To help you further in this issue of suffering, the following are a few links to additional articles you can read:
• HOW GOD USES SUFFERING FOR HIS GLORY
• SUFFERING TOGETHER: Allowing Pain to Nourish Your Marriage
It is our hope that when times of suffering occur you will determine together to find ways to go through them united as a team (the best you can). Don’t let the enemy of our faith divide you.
Cindy and Steve Wright
More from Marriage Missions
Filed under: Marriage Messages
2 responses to “How God Uses Suffering – MM #280”
It’s like the entire Christian paradigm is just obsessed with misery and suffering. I’ve pursued God for 50+ years and at this point I don’t have the vaguest idea of what God’s love even is. I have no idea what this peace and joy you describe is or how to obtain it. I feel incredibly dissappointed in God. It’s like there is just zero joy, zero answers to prayer. I’ve dealt with violence and tragedy and betrayal my whole life. I just don’t get it. My experience with God has been extremely demoralizing. I must be doing it all wrong.
Peter, I’ve been praying for several days about what to say to you. I knew I needed to say something, but I also knew it needed to be bathed in prayer. I wish you could know what I see in my heart for you. I know God loves you but it’s not easy to put into words. Part of the reason is because God IS Love. We’re told in the Bible, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” He is the very embodiment of Love. So, wherever you see love (true love–not false, cheap love), you can know that God is there.
I struggled with this whole concept earlier in life. I didn’t feel God’s love. I couldn’t understand God’s love because everywhere I looked there was so much bad going on–especially in my own life. How could a good God, a loving God allow these things to happen? The struggle was enormous, and every time something else happened that hurt me I thought, “See… God doesn’t love me. He loves other people because I can see Him answering their prayers and they don’t have as many bad things happen to them.” But I now know that my focus was screwed up. I needed to experience God through a different lens than that. But how?
And then I heard a message that changed my perspective. It was given by Elisabeth Elliot (who was a well known former missionary whose husband, Jim Elliot, was martyred by the Auca Indians, along with 4 other missionaries who were trying to minister to their tribe). Elisabeth was talking about how difficult it is to see good in life sometimes. She didn’t see much good after Jim and the others were killed leaving behind her and 4 other widows and several children. But God ministered to her heart and eventually He helped her to establish some important truths to live by, which would help her see and experience more of the love of God for the rest of her life.
She said some things have to be established as a foundation that you lay upon Jesus–the true foundation for those who follow Him. And the first important truth is to “stand upon the principle that GOD LOVES US–hang onto that fact.” She said, “Don’t question it; it’s an unshakable fact that you need to remember.” The Bible is filled with scripture that says over and over again that God loves us. In order for us to “live a life of love” as God tells us to do, we must stand upon that fact that He DOES love us.
“Your faith shakes, but not the fact that God loves you.” (I’m taking these from my notes that I wrote down as fast as I could as Elisabeth talked; these concepts have helped me to change my whole stance on God’s love as God has breathed life into what she said.) “You have to know He loves you even when horrible things happen to you.” And that’s hard to comprehend. But if we keep looking to Him, God will help us to see good that comes even out of the bad. “Everything that happens fits together in a pattern for good, to those who love God.” We’re told that in the Bible. And as you walk by faith that God loves you… eventually you will experience it in ways you never thought possible.
Here’s something that Henry Blackaby said, “Just about everything in this life can change without notice. Your friends can become your enemies. Your family can be removed from you. You can lose your job. Nothing is guaranteed to stay the same, except for one thing. There is one constant, one thing you can count on now and forever… and that is the unfailing love of God.”
So, just as I put my faith in God one night in October 1974, and embraced Jesus Christ as my personal savior, I have hung on since that time–believing many times even when I didn’t understand all that was going on. And the same is true concerning God’s love. I refuse to let go. When I stopped questioning and stood on His promise that He DOES love me, I have seen His love in action (sometimes later, rather than sooner) and have experienced it and have been strengthened by it.
I have also learned to hear God’s voice better. And I’ve learned to discern that there is a difference when God is speaking and when the enemy of our faith is trying to deceive me. The following linked article is a portion of what I learned: https://marriagemissions.com/discerning-the-difference-between-the-conviction-of-the-holy-spirit-and-condemnation-of-the-enemy/. This has helped enormously to stand on truth–not the shaky ground the enemy wants me to stand upon.
When doubtstorms come upon me and everything comes against me to cause me to doubt… I stand strong. I WILL NOT let the enemy of my faith cause me to doubt God’s love. God loves me… I’m hanging onto that fact. And as a result, He has never failed me. I’ve thought at times that He was pretty close to failing me, but as I look back, there’s no doubt that He worked all of it together for good. This is not an illusion; I’ve truly experienced His love. And I pray that for you. I can’t show you what’s in my heart–all that I see in the ways God loves you. How I wish I could! But I encourage you to prayerfully read what I’ve written, and the prayer I’m writing below for you that is written in Ephesians 3:14-19. With all my heart I pray the following for you:
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”