Sometimes it may feel like God is laughing at our suffering and pain, but Paul gives us a different perspective. Jon Noyes explains how God can use our experiences for a greater good in this clip from To the Point LIVE. Catch more of To the Point the second and fourth Wednesday of every month, streaming live at noon Pacific time on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
God uses the suffering that evil causes in our lives—in your life and in my life—to produce something good. The apostle Paul demonstrated this with his entire life. He knew what suffering was. In 2 Corinthians 11, we read that he was beaten, he was in danger all the time of death, whether he was in the city or out in the wilderness, or whether starving or facing 39 lashes. We read what Paul went through as he gives us his testimony, and in the midst of all of that, in Romans, he says, “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that’s to be revealed to us.” Paul, as he looks forward to Heaven—into future glory— understands that these sufferings pale in comparison to what awaits.
I think that there’s good reason for God to allow pain and suffering in our lives. As Joseph confronts his brothers in Genesis 50, he says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive as they are today.” Not only does he say that good things can come from evil—that a good thing has come from this evil, that you meant this for evil, but God meant it for good—he also gives the reason why. God used the evil in Joseph’s life to prepare him for the moment that he found himself basically saving the nation of Israel as he opened up the gates of Egypt—the food stores—to the Israelites, saving them. A whole people group saved, and it started with evil, but God meant it for good.
God also uses evil and suffering for sanctification. Second Corinthians 4 says that these are but “momentary light afflictions producing in us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” Now, if you, right now, are finding yourself in the midst of tremendous pain and suffering, it may feel like that doesn’t help. I’m so sorry that you’re going through whatever it is, but it doesn’t mean what Paul tells us is not true. Brett Kunkle says, “Don’t confuse the moment with the story.” Don’t confuse the moment that you find yourself in with the entire story of your life. These are trials and tribulations that we sometimes feel last for a very long time, but when you look ahead, you know that things are going to pass, especially when you apply to these things to a heavenly timeline—a divine timeline—an eternal timeline. The glory that awaits us far outshines the amount of time that we’re going to spend in pain and suffering here.
But there’s something else. Paul is saying here that these momentary light afflictions are producing something in us that otherwise wouldn’t be there. Paul is saying that these pains—these trials, these tribulations—that we go through in day-to-day life are producing something in us that otherwise wouldn’t be there—that we go through them, and they’re preparing us to shoulder the weight of glory. To shoulder heavenly rule, we have to go through these trials. Do I necessarily know why? No, I don’t. But God says, “My ways are not your ways. My ways are higher than your ways.”
I don’t understand everything that God does, but I know what the Word says, and Scripture tells us that these things are true. We’re told in James that God uses pain and suffering to bring about perfection. James 1:2–4 says, “My brethren, consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” That’s crazy. It’s doing something. It’s not for naught. There isn’t an angry God “up there” just watching and waiting for you to get yourself in trouble or causing these sufferings and trials to come to your door so he can laugh at you. No. They’re not for naught. They’re doing something. They’re producing endurance in our lives. James goes on to say, “And let that endurance have its perfect results so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” You see, God’s using life’s circumstances to shape us and to mold us into what he wants us to be.
My prayer life changed a few years ago when I found myself in a trial. I had a newborn baby in the NICU. It was very scary. She contracted RSV when she was one day old—respiratory infection. Her oxygen saturation levels were falling, and she had to be hooked up to all these tubes. My wife was staying with her in the NICU, and I was home with our firstborn—who I think was not even two—and working full-time. It was just so hard. Then, struggling with this, my prayer life changed. I kept asking God for healing, but I started focusing on what God would have for me in the moment. What is it that I can learn? And I learned endurance—how to stand in the face of trials and walk through them.
The trials of life lead to something good. They build character in us. Romans 5:3–4 says, “And not only this, but we also exalt in our tribulations.” Paul’s saying that we celebrate, and then we exalt in our tribulations, knowing that tribulations bring about perseverance, and perseverance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and a hope that does not disappoint. They build in us a proven character. It makes us a veteran of the world. We’re no longer a green recruit. We’re that colonel or that commander in God’s army as we go through the trials of life and we face them. God builds us up in character, and not just that, but the perseverance that leads to proven character also leads to instilling in us a hope that does not disappoint—ultimately, a hope to future glory. Everything leads to glory through the cross of Jesus.