Wednesday, 2 November 2011

One of God's Purposes in Suffering

Why do we find suffering so difficult? Whether it is the agony of chronic illness, the constant buffetting of disappointment after disappointment, or the longing ache of childnessness, or whatever your suffering may be, why is it that we struggle so much with it? One of the reasons that we find our suffering so difficult is that we cannot see the point of it.

Therefore, one of the best medicines that we ought to be constantly drinking in the midst of our pain is to remind ourselves of God's purposes in suffering. Tim Challies has written a very helpful article focussing on one of God's purposes in suffering. In it he says these words:
Have you ever considered that through your suffering God is strengthening your church? [Ligon Duncan] says, “Our suffering aids the maturity of the whole body of believers. It is extraordinary that our suffering is designed not only to work godliness in us as individuals, causing us to prize Christ more, but also to work maturity within the whole church.” And this is exactly what Paul points to in the opening verses of Colossians. “Suffering is God’s instrument to bring about the maturity of the whole church. God ordains for our suffering, as a participation in the suffering of Christ’s body, to bring about in the church the purposes of Christ’s affliction. In other words, sometimes God appoints his children to suffer so that the whole body will become mature.” We all know that as members of the church we are to rejoice together and to mourn together, but do we understand that these occasions of mourning are given for our maturity? If we truly are a body, each part depende
nt on the other, then it cannot be any other way. One person’s suffering is every person’s suffering; one person’s maturing is every person’s maturing.

Can’t you see how this must be true? Can you think about some of the Christian men and women whose suffering you have witnessed and see how their example has served to strengthen the church? I can think of all kinds of examples. Some of them are people who suffered far away from me, far from my local church, but whose suffering served to strengthen even those Christians whom they had never met face-to-face. Others are people who have been a part of my local church or still are a part of my local congregation, whose suffering has been witnessed by only a few; but those few have been strengthened by their witness. I think of people who suffered through illness or joblessness or the loss of a child; they grew in maturity through the suffering but, remarkably, so did those of us who wept with them.
You can read the whole article by clicking here.