Michael Reeves packs a lot of wisdom into this quote about suffering from his book Spurgeon on the Christian Life:
The gods of other religions might give ease to the good and health to the worthy. Not so in Christianity, where “goodness” is Christ himself, and conformity to him. God will not therefore simply reward believers with ease in this life, for that would make ease, rather than Christ, the greater prize. Suffering is therefore a “covenant mark,” a proof that God is our Father and therefore cares enough about us to do everything necessary to mold and clip us into the likeness of his happily holy Son….
This might all seem like bad news for the believer. After all, who wants to hurt? Yet, studying the lives of eminent men, Spurgeon came to the conclusion that those who never have to push through the waves of difficulty never grow in strength and maturity like those who do. Those who live in the lap of luxury and never experience the discipline of trouble tend always to be more frail and feeble in their faith. On the whole, therefore, “it is good for a man to bear the yoke; good for a man to breast the billows; good for a man to pass through fire and through water, and so to learn sublime lessons.” Trouble can strengthen, and trouble can reveal the work that needs to be done in us. In that sense our lives, Spurgeon explained, can be likened to a pool of water. When it is allowed to stand still and at ease for a while, it can look clean and pure, for all the mud has sunk out of sight to the bottom. Only when it is stirred and disturbed is the impurity revealed. Just so, trials show up our sins in how viciously and selfishly we react to them. Through them we get to know ourselves better, recognize the evils that had previously lain hidden in our hearts, and then fight them.
Christ is the greatest prize in this life, not comfort. This is why, when God says in Romans 8:28–29 that “all things work together for good to those who love God,” He’s referring to His good purpose of “[conforming us] to the image of His Son.”
Do you want to strengthen and mature in your trust in God as He proves His faithfulness? Do you want your sins to be revealed to you so you can kill them? Do you desire to know God more than you desire comfort? These are hard questions. You may not even truly know the answers to them until you’re in the middle of suffering, tempted to reject God in anger.
But take some time to think through those questions now. If you can’t answer yes—even a small yes (we all shy away from suffering!)—then just start there by asking God to help you see Him more clearly so you will truly believe He’s worth any cost.