This is a guest post by Olivia White. Scroll to the end of the post to meet Olivia.
Perhaps you are struggling right now. If so, this article is for you. If you aren’t, then why don’t you tuck this into your head for when it may be of use. The truth is, in this messed up world, we’re all going to face challenges. Most people have experienced financial problems, illness, or death of loved ones. On a smaller scale, we all have days that nothing seems to go right or we just can't find the motivation to press on in the mundane. Other times, we may simply doubt whether God is really there. If you aren’t the person struggling right now, then you probably will be later on.
Let me remind you of this vital truth: God has not forsaken you. His plans are perfect, and they are for your ultimate good and sanctification. If he has chosen to take you through stormy waters, it is with adequate reason. Though you may not feel it right now, He’s right there with you: helping you and sustaining you.
No one should assume to know God’s thoughts and plans if they are not revealed in His Word. I don’t specifically know why He chooses to allow certain people to endure certain types of suffering. Nevertheless, the three following passages, written by Paul to the church of Corinth, do give us a clue to God’s general purposes in suffering.
"For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again." 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 ESV
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 ESV
"So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV
Paul endured great hardships for the sake of the gospel, yet in all this he trusted God. He knew that God had a purpose in allowing him to suffer. Challenging circumstances cause us to rely not on ourselves, but on God. They demonstrate both to us and to the world around us, that any strength we may have comes from God, not from ourselves. When we, as Christians, are “given over to death”, enduring affliction as Jesus did, it is so that we might magnify the life of Jesus. Just as when weakness breaks down one’s pride and God’s divine power is shown to man, the more broken we are, the more God is glorified and we are sanctified.
I am broken. I am a messed up, desperate, sinner. I have seen the utmost depths of despair, and I have realized just how ruined I am. Yet there is beauty in the midst of this brokenness.
Because it is through this brokenness that I find Christ. Because the more broken I am, the more I realize just how dependent I am on him. Because no matter how greatly deep my brokenness is, God’s love is deeper.
Suffering is hard, but God can and does use it for good. I thank God for my suffering because it was what led me to surrender my life to him. Salvation is worth every ounce of the pain.
As God continues to reveal my brokenness to me, I pray that my life would reflect that of the apostle Paul, who so famously resolved, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me”. I would like to encourage you to look for the ways that God is working in your life. Reflect on the many blessings that have been granted to you and the ways in which God has answered prayers. Intentionally set up a habit of thankfulness, and you may find yourself with a more hopeful perspective. No matter how grateful you are, the hard experiences will still come. In those moments, it's okay to just cry out to God. Whether you are in a season of thanksgiving or suffering, trust that each and every piece is necessary in the complexity of God's magnificent masterpiece, his great story to which there will be one glorious ending.