Two verses to set up this blog post.
First, Joseph’s words from Genesis 50:20:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (ESV)
And then Paul’s words found in Romans 8:28:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (ESV)
The first statement came out of the mouth of a man whose life was turned upside down after his brothers sold him into slavery. The second statement came from the pen of a man who endured severe persecution for trying to share the Gospel.
It makes us wonder…can anything good come out of painful situations?
In some ways, bringing beauty out of ashes is God’s specialty. When everything seems hopeless, God figures out how to make light pierce through the darkness.
Isn’t that the mind-blowing thing about the Gospel? Jesus certainly is the greatest light to ever shine out of darkness!
It’s not always easy. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, we see as through a cloudy glass…yet one day we will see things clearly.
But even with our hampered vision, I believe we can see some of the ways God draws good from the bad. We can try to find the points of light within the darkness.
Here are a few thoughts to consider:
The day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil.
The story isn’t over.
Revelation tells us that God will make crooked thing straight and dry the tears from every eye.
We may wonder, “Why does God wait?” Perhaps the best answer is found in 2 Peter 3:9:
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (ESV)
The bottom line is that God is intent on pulling more people out of the darkness
Our suffering can be used as part of our witness.
Sometimes the best part of our story is how God came in at our lowest point.
In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul made a point that God uses the weak things of the world…and suffering certainly has a way of making us feel weak.
Others can be encouraged and motivated by how we handle our struggle
Everyone loves stories about how someone who was down and out broke through with a second chance. Such stories give us courage and hope. We need more people who have suffered to tell us their stories so we might learn how to handle our own struggles better.
God is preparing us for deeper ministry
Suffering has a way of developing sensitivity.
We become more humble and empathetic.
Paul wrote the following in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (ESV)
Suffering provides a warning for others
Once again writing to the Corinthians, Paul offered this bit of advice:
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[a] that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. (1 Corinthians 1:1-6 ESV)
- Suffering tests and strengthens our faith
Here’s how the apostle Peter put it:
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
When we suffer, we have a choice: we decide whether to turn bitter or turn to God for peace and courage
Lee Strobel wrote: “I believe all suffering is at least potential good, an opportunity for good. It’s up to our free choice to actualize the potential. Not all of us benefit from suffering and learn from it, because it is up to us. It’s our free will.”
Jesus is quoted in John 16:33 as saying the following:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (ESV)
What do we need when we are suffering? Peace and courage! Exactly what Jesus offers.
“God’s ultimate answer to suffering isn’t an explanation; it’s the incarnation. Suffering is a personal problem; it demands a personal response. And God isn’t some distant, detached, and disinterested deity; He entered into our world and personally experienced our pain. Jesus is there in the lowest places of our lives. Are you broken? He was broken, like bread, for us. Are you despised? He was despised and rejected of men. Do you cry out that you can’t take any more? He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Did someone betray you? He was sold out. Are your most tender relationships broken? He loved and He was rejected. Did people turn from you? They hid their faces from Him as if He were a leper. Does He descend into all of our hells? Yes, He does. From the depths of a Nazi death camp, Corrie ten Boom wrote these words: “No matter how deep our darkness, He is deeper still.” Every tear we shed becomes his tear.”