About four years ago I came across a quote that has not stopped ringing in my ears to this day. Charles Spurgeon once told his students: "I dare say the greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, ”.
Spurgeon knew what it was to suffer. These words were spoken from experience. His wife was an invalid for most of their marriage, from the age of 35 he suffered almost constant and intense pain from gout, rheumatism and Bright’s disease, and battled with recurring depression from the age of 24.
Yet, Spurgeon knew and was convinced that the storms which battered him were the messengers of a gracious God, sent for his good. He said: “I am afraid that all the grace that I have got of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable ... Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house.”
Why good can come from God sending us painful afflictions?
There are many reasons He does this. Here is one big reason: It humbles us. It brings us to our senses and makes us inescapably aware of our weakness. This is the purpose of Paul’s thorn in the flesh: “…a thorn was given me in the flesh…to keep me from being too elated.” (2 Corinthians 12:7). It keeps him humble. He cannot escape his weakness.
When we feel our weakness it grows us in dependence on God’s grace (“My grace is sufficient for you…” – verse 9), and it puts His power on public display (“…for my power is made perfect in weakness” - verse 9).
One of the most effective tools God has used grow me in Christian maturity is a chronic stomach problem. It has been painful at times. It has not been enjoyable. Yet it has done me a great good. It has humbled me. He has not taken it away. I carry around with me a constant reminder that I need daily to depend upon Him. Again and again it teaches me that I am weak but He is strong. All the glory must go to Him.
Don’t be ashamed of your weakness. Don’t be too quick to wish that God would take away that painful thorn in the flesh. It may be that it is precisely this affliction that is making you a much more effective instrument in His hands. The most powerful instruments in God’s armoury are the weakest. He uses broken tools to display His master craftmanship.