God can use suffering to accomplish good
This is not to say suffering is good but God can use it to accomplish good. We read in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Paul writes to the church in Rome that God can take all the hurt and ugliness of the tragedies around us and accomplish good. This promise is only for those who have trusted His Son Jesus Christ.
We see an example from the book of Genesis in the life of Joseph. After becoming extremely jealous, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. It was a terrible evil, and God held them accountable. But many years later and many hardships, Joseph rose to power in Egypt, and under his guidance the people stored up huge amounts of grain to survive a great famine. Citizens of Israel and other nations came to Egypt to get grain. Eventually, Joseph’s own family had to travel to Egypt to buy food to survive. The brothers come and don’t recognize him and in a dramatic scene Joseph reveals he was the son that was lost, the one they sold into slavery. In the face of this terrible deed, Joseph he says to his brothers, “You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good – to save many lives.” It was because of Joseph’s relationship with God he was given wisdom and power to order the Egyptians to store the grain that saved many lives. God accomplished a great good out of a great evil done by his brothers.
Some may say, “Well God hasn’t accomplished good in my situation.” The Romans 8 passage clearly says that God works all things for the good for those that love him. He is asking us to trust him, even when we ourselves may never see the good. If God says He will work all things for good, then He will. Let me share with you two ways God can use suffering to achieve good.
- God accomplishes good through pain by drawing people to Christ
Many people come to Christ during times of suffering. The largest and many times the most dynamic Christian churches in the world are in countries where pain and suffering is a daily ordeal. The good news of Jesus Christ thrives in areas of great poverty and strife. While at the same time Christianity struggles in areas of comfort and prosperity. This seems to indicate people trust their riches rather than God. There are more Christians in either China or Africa then there are in the United States. Pain and suffering is widespread in these countries yet the churches are exploding with growth. The great author CS Lewis observed, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” God uses pain to wake up those who need Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthian Church chastising them for their immoral behavior. Upon hearing the letter they felt great sorrow. We read in 2 Cor. 7:10 “For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow.” Paul wrote a strong letter to the church and in remorse over their sin, people were turning to Christ. The principle of sorrow leading to salvation is true for all types of suffering. Pain and misery can draw people to Christ.
Chuck Colson, during the time he served as part of the Nixon administration, was arrested for his involvement with the Watergate break-in. While serving time in prison Colson was confronted by a chapter on pride from the book by CS Lewis called “Mere Christianity.” He was completely humbled by his sins and in sorrow he turned his life to Christ. From that experience God has used Chuck Colson powerfully in his extremely effective prison ministry. It took prison for God to bring Chuck Colson to his knees and ready to receive the forgiveness available to all.
Joni Erickson Tada was seriously hurt in a diving accident at age 17. After 30 years in a wheelchair she wrote these words, “I would rather be in this wheelchair knowing God then on my feet without Him.” Another woman who had lived a wild life had contacted terminal cancer. In desperation she reached out to God and lived the rest of her life in a beautiful relationship with Jesus Christ. She made a very radical statement before she died. “If it took cancer for me to meet Jesus Christ, I say thank God for cancer!”
Many of you reading this have a story of pain and suffering that led you to the cross. Through suffering and evil, God draws people to Himself.
2. God accomplishes good through pain by developing our character
We read in Romans 5:3-4 “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Paul do you mean when we suffer we are supposed to be happy? The Apostle Paul is telling us we can rejoice at knowing God is transforming our lives. Character is developed best in difficult situations. We can rejoice as we see God is working in our lives so we can grow more like Christ. Rejoicing not in the pain but in how God is working. In athletics it is called, “No pain, no gain.”
In this area Jesus is our model. We read in Phil. 2:8, “…He humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on the cross.” Jesus had the power to avoid the cross but didn’t. Just think of the strength of character Jesus needed to humbly and obediently submit to death of the cross, especially when you can stop the procedure. He died so we could be forgiven (Romans 5:8). Jesus was tested all throughout his ministry and He persevered and endured. God wants us to do the same.
Trials are God’s way of developing our character. And the truth is we all know this. As we all reflect on our lives, we can see that during tough times we grow the most. It is usually not the way we want to grow but it seems to be the best way to help us grow.