Three Ways God Is Working Through Your Suffering

Author Jonathan Noyes Published on 04/25/2024

On November 7, 2018, a Marine Corps veteran dressed in black and armed with a .45 caliber handgun entered a popular hangout for college students and young adults. He opened fire, killing twelve before turning the gun on himself. The Borderline Bar and Grill was two miles from my house.

The next morning, I was interviewed on radio about the tragedy. While driving home, exhausted from the discussion, I saw smoke rising from the fields near my home. The Woolsey fire had started just a few hours after the Borderline shooting, eventually burning 95,000 acres, destroying 1,643 structures, killing three people, and causing the evacuation of more than 295,000—my family included.

One question was on the minds of many that week: Why would God allow all this pain, grief, and suffering? It’s a question we all wrestle with eventually.

Suffering is a part of reality that we generally try to avoid. However, I’ve learned three important things about embracing suffering that have completely changed how I relate to God and deepened my relationship with him.

First, God uses our suffering for the good of his people. Consider Joseph’s life. After being left for dead by his brothers, he was sold into slavery, falsely accused of having an affair with Potiphar’s wife, imprisoned, and forgotten. In the final analysis, though, when he looked back on his trials and saw what God had done through them, he said, “As for you [his brothers], you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Gen. 50:20).

Without suffering, Joseph wouldn’t have been able to eventually save his people from famine. God uses suffering in the same way in our own lives. He takes the bad things we’ve been through and redeems them for something good in his plans for his people.

Second, God uses our suffering to transform us. Paul says, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,” and he defines that good as “[conforming us] to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:28–29). “All things” includes suffering.

He also says, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). In this verse, Paul tells us two important things about suffering. First, the sorrow and distress we endure is “momentary.” It will eventually fade. Second, suffering produces in us something that wouldn’t otherwise be there. God ultimately uses suffering to prepare us to rule and reign in glory with King Jesus forever.

Third, God is with us in our suffering. Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). He said this to his disciples as he appointed them to risk their lives as agents of the gospel. Jesus chose to end his Great Commission with comforting words because he knew the disciples would face misunderstanding, rejection, imprisonment, and—for some—death. Jesus wasn’t going to let them suffer alone, though. He promised to be with them.

When suffering comes, God doesn’t leave us to cope with it in our own strength. He is with us in our suffering just as he was with Peter, James, and John. You can be sure God is with you through all your ups and downs, good days and bad. There is no struggle that will ever drive him away from you. In his presence, you will find everything you need to persevere.

These three things changed how I looked at suffering. Instead of asking God to deliver me from my trials, I started asking God to show me what he was doing in me through them. I now pray God would deliver me only after I’ve learned what he has for me in the trial. While I don’t seek out suffering, I do try to embrace it since I know God is working through it, is using it to transform me, and is with me in the midst of it.