We know God loves us and wants to bless us. If you’re like me, your favorite scriptures are the ones that remind us of just how much He loves us and how much He wants to bless us. Jeremiah 29:11 is one example:
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (ESV)
Romans 8:38-39 is another goodie:
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (ESV)
Okay, so if God loves us so much, then why, why, why does He allow us to go through hard things sometimes? There are actually some really good reasons, if you’re willing to trust God and listen:
- He wants to bless you: What?! It’s a blessing go through hard things? The answer is yes. John 15:1-2 says this: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (ESV) “More fruit” means blessing, but to be able to bear more fruit, God has to cut off things in us that are hindering us and preventing growth and blessing in our lives.
- He wants you to get closer to Him: Often we don’t pay much attention to God when everything’s going okay. But when all hell breaks loose, even people who don’t know God that well can be moved to cry out to Him. Psalms 4:1 says: “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” (ESV) Just like a hurt child runs bawling to a parent, suffering often makes us run to God.
- He wants you to know more of His heart: Phil. 2:8 gives us a glimpse of what was going on in Jesus’ heart when He went to the cross for us: “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (ESV) When we suffer, we can identify with the suffering Jesus went through for us.
- He wants to give us hope: How can suffering give us hope? Read what Romans 5:3-5 says: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (ESV) When there’s nothing to hope for, there’s no need for hope. But when we suffer, we build endurance and character, and as we do, we learn the true meaning of hope.
- He wants us to develop empathy and love for others: Jesus set an example for us, and His example was to be able to empathize with all people, as Hebrews 4:14 tells us: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (ESV) If Jesus was willing to suffer in order to empathize with us, then we should consider it a privilege to embrace difficulties in order to be able to identify with the hardships of our fellow men and women.
- He wants us to grow in our faith: Building faith is like building muscle tissue. If you want strong faith muscles, you’ve got to exercise them. Hebrews 10:38 tells us, “…but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” (ESV) If we want to please God, we must be willing to grow in our faith, and learning to trust Him in the midst of suffering is a great way to do that.
- He wants us to be equipped to encourage others: I don’t have a Bible verse for this, but I do have experience. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had just the right thing to say, at just the right time, for a friend in need. And I wasn’t equipped because I had memorized just the right scripture, listened to a sermon, or read a book. No, I was equipped because God had taken me through a similar experience, and I was able to share how He helped me get through it.
I know there are other reasons God takes us through hard things, and maybe I’ll share them in another post sometime. But for now, if you’re going through something hard, remember these things: God always has a purpose for suffering, and He has a way of turning suffering into good stuff. I’ll leave you with this from Isaiah 61: 1-3 (ESV):
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion –
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
Friend, if you’re suffering, be of good cheer. God is with you in it, He has a purpose for it, and He will be close to you in the midst of it. Embrace it, and you’ll discover more of Jesus.
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