One of the biggest questions you will ever have to settle in your heart is why a good God allows suffering. In answer, Bob Goff once said, “What brings us to tears, will lead us to grace. Our pain is never wasted.” God does not allow pain without a purpose.
Like how Jesus led his disciples through the storm in Mark 4, we know that God intentionally leads us through hard times. He has a reason. While we may never know completely why, here are six reasons I have found to be true.
#1 — Character development
Anyone familiar with a good story knows that conflict is essential to the best plots. The greatest superheroes have broken hearts and tragic backstories, so we can rejoice in our sufferings because “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
Joan Rivers once said, “I wish I could tell you it gets better, but it doesn’t get better. You get better.” Pain makes you stronger. Fear makes you braver. Heartbreak makes you wiser.
God always has our best interest in mind. People suffer because of God’s love, like how a surgeon cuts to remove a tumor. Proverbs 3:11-12 says, “Do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” God is trying to heal us, to grow us.
Job says in 5:17, “Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty.” Just like beautiful people, God loves us too much to leave us as we are but pushes us to become the best we can be. How amazing is that?
Your past has given you the strength and wisdom you have today, so celebrate it. Don’t let it haunt you. Let your past make you better, not bitter. Forget the past. Remember the lesson.
Alex Elle once said, “I’m thankful for my struggle because without it I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength.” Sometimes God will put a Goliath in your life for you to find the David within you.
Sometimes you have to get knocked down lower than you have ever been to stand up taller than you ever were. The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow.
“When the Lord brings suffering into your life, sometimes it’s just simply to bring out the worst in you so you can see it.”–Tim Keller
The more you realize how wicked you are, the more you see the glory of the gospel.
Sometimes God doesn’t change your situation because He is trying to change your heart. As Deuteronomy 8:2 says, “…the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.”
When God wants you to grow, He makes you uncomfortable. If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. Change does not occur when you are curled up in your comfort zone.
Maybe life isn’t about avoiding the bruises. Maybe it’s about collecting the scars to prove we showed up for it. As Hamilton said in the musical, “Dying is easy, young man. Living is harder.”
Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but actually, you’ve been planted. Every flower must grow through dirt and, as Mulan’s father told her, “The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.”
As dying Eponine sings in Les Miserables, rain makes the flowers grow. Without rain, there wouldn’t be rainbows and nothing would grow. Learn to embrace the storms of your life.
An arrow can be shot only by pulling it backward. When life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great, so just take a deep breath and keep aiming.
“Many times when God isn’t changing your circumstances it’s because He’s mostly concerned with changing YOU within the circumstance. Your character, your inner strength, your integrity matters to Him because they are everlasting qualities. The wisdom, the strength, and the maturity that grows within you are all things you’re going to need to sustain the calling God has on your life. Know that there is a purpose in your pain.”
Problems are like washing machines. They twist, they spin and knock us around, but in the end we come out cleaner, brighter, and better than before.
“The valley’s where You make me more like Christ” Sovereign Grace Music writes in their song “In The Valley.”
From dark clouds, we get precious water. From dark mines, we get valuable jewels. From our darkest trials come our best blessings from God.
The enemy fights the hardest when he knows God has something great in store for you.
#2 — To make good days, good days
“Without pain, how could we know joy?” John Green wrote in The Fault in Our Stars. You have to have conflict to have resolution.
Philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz spoke to this idea with his concept Felix Colpa: It is good to have evil because then we appreciate the good.
In his book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer wrote, “You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” Like Disney’s Inside Out, the happiest memories sometimes come from the saddest occurrences.
Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while so we can see life with a clearer view again. In part, this is scientifically true.
According to Harvard Health, researchers have established that crying releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, also known as endorphins. These “feel-good” chemicals help ease physical and emotional pain.
#3 — To teach a lesson
Back to Mark 4, one of the reasons Jesus took His disciples through the storm is because he was training them to listen. They went from teaching to testing, from the classroom to a field trip, from hearing to doing.
“There are some things you can only learn in a storm.”–Joel Osteen
Paul David Tripp says, “We forget that God’s primary goal is not changing our situations or relationships so that we can be happy, but changing us through our situations and relationships so that we will be holy.”
“Our discontentment would vanish if we could grasp that every pain God sends to us is a mercy in disguise.”–Phillip Holmes
Don’t ask God why He’s allowing something to happen. Ask Him what He wants you to learn and do in the midst of it.
What if everything you are going through is preparing you for what you asked for?
Those who dive in the sea of affliction bring up rare pearls. It’s the hardest times that teach us the most valuable lessons. Instead of complaining, ask God, “What is the lesson you’re trying to teach me?”
When my dad’s first wife left him, he lost 10 pounds within 15 hours. It was a terrible experience, yet he journaled through it to remember the lessons God revealed during the trial.
When Jesus calms the storm in Mark 4, He leaves his disciples wondering, “Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
My pastor noted that one of the ways we can know we are thinking rightly about a storm is when we are not simply asking why am I in this, what am I going to do now, or how do I get out of this but who is Jesus in this?
Pain is a two-sided promise: (1) your ultimate good by drawing your heart closer to Jesus so (2) He can be glorified. As Elisabeth Elliot said after losing her life’s work, “It is in accepting what God has given that God gives Himself.”
#4 — God’s glory shines brighter
High school was the last season I spent conceptually learning about who God is. Classroom lecture instead of hands-on learning. Scriptural truths were so intricately woven into my conscious I knew them in my sleep and they touched me deeply.
I knew that God never changes. I knew that God has abundant love for me. I knew that God is good, but my college career brought a season where those truths proved to be the only solid foundation.
My pastor calls this a “life-align moment,” when everything else falls away and you are locked in on the only thing that matters. This is what made the Greatest Generation so great. They were living in life-align moments.
“In the daytime there are stars in the heavens–Sovereign Grace, “In The Valley”
But they only shine at night
And the deeper that I go into darkness
The more I see their radiant light”
Difficulties give us the opportunity to experience the faithfulness of God. As Steven Furtick once said, “The only way God can show us He’s in control is to put us in situations we can’t control.” It’s not until you lose everything that you can truly appreciate God as your all, in all.
There is a Light you can only see in the darkness. “The pupil dilates in darkness and in the end finds light,” Victor Hugo alludes in Les Miserables, “just as the soul dilates in misfortune and in the end finds God.”
“I am beginning to see that it is out of a low place that one can best believe.”–Lilias Trotter
It’s one thing to trust God in theory and another to trust Him because His is the only way for you to maintain sanity. As Dolly Parton once said, “Storms make trees take deeper roots.”
Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “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” (2 Cor 1:8-9).
Similarly, the president of my university said, “When we’re having a hard time, generally we do a little bit better because we’re depending more on the Lord.”
God could remove our fear of the storm, but He replaces it with Himself. Even though oceans roar, as Psalm 46 says, we are to be still and rest in the truth that He is God. Ultimately, you don’t need to know why, you just need to know God.
“When You lead me to the valley of vision–Sovereign Grace, “In The Valley”
I can see You in the heights
And though my humbling
Wouldn’t be my decision
It’s here Your glory shines so bright”
The valley is also where God’s power is revealed. In Mark 4, Jesus seemed to be a victim of the storm when in fact He is the ruler over it. Jesus, in His human weakness and “still wiping the sleepies from His eyes,” as my pastor said, turned 10-foot waves to a sea of glass in two words.
If God can control the forces of nature with mere words, how much more is He in control of our lives? If the emotions bottled up inside me can feel overwhelming, how much more powerful is God? Much more. Much, much more.
#5 — To help others
“The most effective messages always come from trouble,” the president of my university once said. “Affliction is God’s way of making you more effective.”
Author Jon Acuff says, “Sometimes God redeems your story by surrounding you with people who need to hear your past so it doesn’t become their future.”
“God does something in us so He can do something through us,” the president of my university once said. As Joseph told his fear-stricken brothers in Genesis 50:19-20, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive.”
“You are given another day not because you need it but because someone else needs you.”-Unknown
You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved. Your story is the key that can unlock someone else’s prison. As Morgan Harper Nichols said, “Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide.”
“People with the most effective ministries had a crucifixion somewhere,” the president of my university once said. He went on to explain that the model for the most effective ministry is as follows:
- Have trouble
- Get comfort
- Comfort others
It’s not what happens, but rather how you deal with it, that matters most.
“I am now ready to be offered. Measure thy life by loss and not by gain. Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth. For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice, and he who suffers most has most to give.”–Lilias Trotter
#6 — Something greater is coming
In season seven of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there’s tension when the team has to decide whether or not to let history play out again by letting a good man die and a bad man live.
Natural instinct votes to deliver justice, but Agent Coulson pointed out how, yes, a good man dying is a terrible thing, it was the good man’s death that inspired thousands of others to move in ways that impacted the world far more than one man ever could.
“…it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word”-1 Kings 12:15
Like how the hardest climbs often lead to the best views, pain often paves the way for something great to take place that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.
Maybe it’s not working out because God is working out something better. Sometimes it takes a breakdown to get a breakthrough. Sometimes our greatest blessings come from our biggest disappointments.
“Some of our times of greatest blessings come during our times of greatest struggle,” Dr. Pettit said or, in the lyrics of “In The Valley” by Sovereign Grace Music, “the cross precedes the crown.”
God often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad of our greatest calling. If you saw the SIZE of the blessing coming, you would understand the MAGNITUDE of the battle you are fighting. Your current situation is not your final destination.
In the end, God allowed sin to enter the world because this is how He would best be glorified. The trial that draws your heart closer to Him and leads you to share your story with others is meant to point back to Christ.
“This, like many other operations of His providence, seemingly destructive and chaotic in its first effects, is nevertheless a work of beneficence and order.”–Louis Agassiz
When it comes down to it, you have to trust that God has a plan. You have to believe that He is good and in control. Tim Keller once noted that people often say, “I could handle this suffering if only I knew why it was happening.” However, you shouldn’t know why because then you’d be serving things, not God.
Our relationship with Christ wouldn’t be called faith if we knew everything, so whenever you do not understand what’s happening in your life, just close your eyes, take a deep breath, and say, “God, I know this is Your plan. Just help me through it.”
No matter how you’re feeling, God is working.