Almost all of us have at one time or another filled the slot of “Monday morning quarterback.” It is so easy to watch our favorite quarterback on Sunday afternoons make a multitude of mistakes and then Monday morning around the water cooler explain what we would have done different.
Equally troubling is listening to those Monday morning quarterbacks tell us why we are suffering, or undergoing our current trials. Many people are merely trying to help us, and they even think they might even be encouraging us. We just want to yell back at them things like, “How do you know how I feel?” “How can you even come close to feeling the pain or hurt that I am experiencing?” How dare you think I might be guilty of sin which in turn has brought down on my poor wicked head the trouble that now is surrounding me?
I want to share with you several possibilities for the pain that we often experience in our Christian life. As far as I can deduce from the Scriptures pain, suffering, trials, tribulations, and even testings do not come upon us but for a reason or reasons known to God. There is a biblical perspective for suffering. We may not know at the time or for quite some time the reasons why we are experiencing the pain that we suffer. Quite frankly, we may never know this side of heaven why we are undergoing the difficulties that may be pounding us mercilessly.
At best James, the brother of Jesus and former pastor of the Jerusalem Christian Fellowship in Jerusalem, circa AD 33, gives us the best piece of advice that anyone could ever give us. In the very context of trials of various kinds, including the testing of your faith, James encourages us to pray and ask God for wisdom to respond properly and wisely to what we are experiencing. Listen to him:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith with no doubting…”
The following reasons are suggested as to why you, someone you know, or even me may be suffering or undergoing trials or tribulations. These reasons are not original with me. They are taken from notes of sermons I have heard, from research in sermons and series I have both preached and taught. These suggestions come from various pastors, authors, books, and even from internet articles. I give the ultimate credit to God for His glory and truly give credit to the many pastors, authors, bible teachers who have over the years added these viable hints of why our glorious, loving, omnipotent, and merciful God allows us to experience the most physical, emotional and spiritual pain possible.
We are called to and given the gracious gift of suffering in order….
To Comfort others who suffer
II Corinthians 1:4
As we have suffered in specific or concrete ways, we have become prepared vessels in order to render comfort and aid to others in the body of Christ who are suffering similarly. God extended his grace throughout your suffering and what you learned you now can be his hands and feet to extend grace to someone who may be asking why Lord? God grants us compassion for others in order to further reveal Himself to those yet in pain.
To destroy our self-reliance and trust
II Corinthians 1:9
God designs trials to destroy our self-sufficiency. The battle for control never ceases in our lives. When things are going well the tendency is to forget the continual need to rely on God for everything. Trials and tribulation have a tendency to jolt us back into the reality that we are dependent on God for everything all of the time.
To develop a life-habit of thanksgiving
II Corinthians 1:11, I Thessalonians 5:18, Ephesians 5:20
We are called and expected to give thanks in everything. The Scripture makes it clear that everything we have we have received. In other words, we would not have one thing that we have if God did not give it to us. Therefore, we are to be thankful. Trials or tribulations remind us to be thankful even when it is hard.
To be more fruitful
I use to have 21 rose bushes. I loved my roses and I worked hard on them. In order to keep them healthy and to give my roses opportunities to produce more “fruit” or roses, I had to periodically prune them. I had to “disturb” them by digging around their “comfortable” roots and break up the dirt that had become dry, hard, and void of nutrients. I had to take pruning shears and cut into healthy living branches. Those cuts were then susceptible to infection and disease. I had to seal them with sprays and keep watch that infection didn’t set in. The process was “painful” to the roses. Year after year I had large, vibrant, colorful, and innumerable roses.
God does the same thing to us. He has designed us to produce fruit (Galatians 5.) John 15 tells us the pruning process in the lives of believers. God will “disturb” the hardened soil of our lives and cut out the branches that are not producing in order to give us the opportunity of producing more fruit. God is never satisfied with some fruit, a little fruit – He always wants more fruit.
Proves the reality of our faith.
J ob 2:10, II Corinthians 12:10, James 1:2-18
Faith is a gift that this given by God. The danger we face is having a faith that is really not faith. In the parable of the Sower we see four different seeds sown. Yet only one of those seeds was proven to be true or alive; the one that produced fruit. Trials and tribulation, suffering, and pain will be the instrument God uses to prove that our faith is real and not a “false” faith. Paul gives us great advice when he tells us to “examine our faith”, “see if we are really in the faith.” We can misplace faith. We can put faith in ourselves, a formula or activity, or even in an idea. It can be illustrated by many people who are actually in love with love rather than someone as the object of their love.
To Increase and develop our faith
Job 40:4-5, James 1:2-4, Job 42:5, Deuteronomy 29:29
We are to grow in our faith. It is a tragedy multiplied over when we see someone who has grown physically in body to an adult yet they remain mentally and emotionally an infant or little better. God gives faith in measures to us as He pleases, yet he expects us to develop and to grow. Prosperity or good times are not very conducive to spiritual growth due to the fact that we “don’t need God” when everything is cool and we have it under control. God is always at work to stretch us, develop us, and take us to new heights. His goal is to conform us to the image of His dear Son.
I know this is a hard one for some folks. They can sometimes accept the fact that trials or tribulations may come because they have sinned or because the world hates them and has it out for them. But to think that God in His good pleasure purposely allows these things in our lives simply to further develop us is hard to fathom.
To Disciplines and train us
Hebrews 5:8, 12:7, I Corinthians 11:29-30, Psalms 119:67.
It is no secret that trials can be at times God's rod of correction. God has made it very clear that He disciplines those who are His own true sons. He may use an illness, death, accident, loss of job, family turmoil, a foreclosure, unfounded and damaging accusations, or worse to train us in holiness and righteousness.
You must always guard against shrugging most trials or tribulations off as something as an attack from the Devil, or our constant struggle with sin, or even, “that’s the way life is sometimes.” Many times we miss the point of God’s disciplining hand in our lives. Know this well, God does not punish His children. No discipline or correction should never be construed as God being angry with us or is punishing us. His corrections are rare, but they begin gently with the goal of bringing us to repentance.
Well, here are seven reasons why God allows suffering, opposition, trials, tribulations, and testings into our lives. We are called to suffer. God has given suffering for Christ’s sake as a gracious gift for our benefit. Meditate on these reasons, take them to heart, and find comfort in them as your experience pain, sorrow, or heart-break.
Tomorrow Lord willing we will share seven more reasons for suffering. See you then!