When we go through great trials and suffering, it’s so hard to be thankful to God, but we need to understand that our troubles can actually help us. Here’s how.
Walk a Mile with Sorrow
The following poem may be one of the best examples of how our troubles and sorrows help us. They help us by informing us, because when all is sunny and bright, we learn little and can easily coast when we should be growing in the faith and knowledge of our God (2 Pet 3:18), and what better way to bring growth than through difficulties and troubles. The late Robert Browning Hamilton puts it so well:
I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow;
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.
Comfort Received, Comfort Given
If we go through trials, they can teach us about ourselves, but they can also teach us how to empathize with others if we’ve gone through the same or similar circumstances. God “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor 1:4). In other words, God wants to use us as a means to comfort others as others have comforted us when we needed them. The Apostle Paul’s troubles actually gave him confidence and comfort as he said, “I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy” (2 Cor 7:4). How could Paul overflow with joy in his afflictions? It was because he wasn’t “navel gazing,” or focusing only on himself but on others, more specifically, the church.
Pauls’ desire was to serve the church, even willing to suffer for it, saying, “our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within” (2 Cor 7:5), so where did Paul find relief in these afflictions? It was “God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (2 Cor 7:7:6). There it is! God comforted Paul by means of Titus coming to visit Paul. We too can comfort others by going to them. Don’t just send an email or make a phone call and say “I’ll pray for you.” Be there for them, to comfort them when they need it because we are all to share one another’s burdens and care for one another during trials. We are all commanded to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). I have found that when I start to bear someone else’s burden, my own burdens seem to lighten. Maybe it’s because I’ve stopped looking at myself and began to look at others who suffer from what I’ve gone through. Who better to comfort someone than a person who’s gone through the very same thing! That person could be you!
The Purpose in Pain
When we‘re being afflicted by some trial or trouble, we are less likely to care about the things of this world and focus more on the things of God. We tend to pray more, but in our sorrows, we also become more empathetic towards others, have more tolerance of others, have more humility before others, and develop more patience through our endurance. Suffering can point us to the most important things in life; God, prayer, our family. We must learn to take our eyes off of self and put them onto Christ and onto serving others. A sharp pain in your side might save your life. How so? It might be a burst appendix. Pain is a warning sign that the body uses to tell you, “There’s trouble.” So also, pain often signals something’s wrong in life, so there is always purpose in pain since God is sovereign over all.
The Purpose in Storms
I believe that God allows many storms in our lives for many different purposes. Consider these; there can be storms of affection, storms of correction, storms of reflection, storms of direction, and storms of perfection. Whichever it is, God is at work. Remember Jesus never took the disciples around the storm, over the storm, or even avoided the storm, but He went with them through the storm. Jesus will not bail out on us when the storms of life threaten to capsize our boat. Jesus remained in the boat the whole time (Mark 4:38-40), so He will never bail out on us when the going gets rough, but rather He says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb 13:5b).
It grieves me to say this, but there are many believers who will not acknowledge someone else’s suffering, thereby not giving them the comfort when they need it most. When we ignore the suffering of other people, and do nothing about it, they cannot receive the comfort of God by the means God uses. That’s sad too. It may also bode badly for person who turns a blind eye since our prayers to relieve our own suffering might go unanswered and the fact that “judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). God has said, “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered” (Prov 21:13). We might not be able to solve someone’s financial problems, but we can at least empathize with them and try to comfort them. Maybe we can help them find additional resources that are available locally. At least acknowledging someone in their afflictions shows that you care, but the greatest thing you could ever do for anyone is to share the gospel. We must reveal the wrath of God (Rom 1) in order that the grace of God will be good news to them (Rom 5:1, 8:1). What about you? Have you trusted in Christ? If not, today is your day of salvation, but tomorrow, it may be too late (Rev 1:7).
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