By Becky Weber, Crosswalk.com
Have you ever wondered if there’s purpose in your suffering?
When life gets uncomfortable and you’re in the middle of a trying time, it’s pretty hard to see any benefit behind your suffering.
I’m guessing most of us would rather not experience the pain that almost inevitably comes with suffering. But the fact that we live in an imperfect world pretty much makes hard times a guarantee.
So, what should we do with the suffering we experience? Is there a purpose to it all?
When I look back at the times where I’ve experienced some sort of hardship, there’s one thing that sticks out to me about the benefits of the experience: If I let it, suffering always makes my relationship with Jesus a lot richer. He can take what I’ve been through and use it for my good. Not just in one area of my faith, but in a handful of places in my life.
Here are five ways that suffering can restore your faith:
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1. Suffering helps us go deeper.
Have you ever gone through something hard, and looking back, realized how much you grew? There’s something about suffering that pushes us into deeper intimacy with Jesus. If life goes well all the time, we start to rely on things like our circumstances, finances, other people, or ourselves instead of Jesus.
Suffering points us back to him.
Everything else we rely on will fail us at some point. When we start to realize that Jesus is the only one we should be trusting in, that’s when we can go deeper. And as we go deeper, our faith becomes richer—it’s no longer superficial.
How we respond to suffering is crucial in determining how we will be shaped by it. Hardship can bring out a lot of anger, resentment, sadness, and hurt feelings, but it’s what we do with our experience that matters. Suffering can also easily lead to bitterness and shutting down emotionally if we let it. It’s tempting to ask, “why me?” We can choose that direction, or we can decide to let Jesus work in us through the trial.
Choosing to bring your real feelings to Jesus, asking him to comfort and heal, can lead to such depth. Be brave enough to let him in, allowing him to take your pain and use it for good.
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2. Suffering makes us re-evaluate what’s important.
If there’s one thing suffering will teach you, it’s this: how to reevaluate your current priorities.
It’s easy to get distracted by all the unimportant things going on around us at all times—the almost constant noise of life. When we get distracted, it can be hard to remember where our focus should actually be.
When I’m going through something hard, material things start to lose their luster pretty quickly. The stuff I have doesn’t usually make my circumstances any better. My status won’t be as important to me if I’ve just suffered a significant loss. And my number of followers on social media becomes meaningless if I’ve been turning to “likes” to fill my soul.
Simply put: my priorities change when I’m going through a season of suffering.
Hardship can also rid us of self-sufficiency. When life is easy, we tend to forget that the Lord is really the one who has given us everything. We focus on what we can do or achieve for ourselves instead of being thankful for all we’ve been given.
But when suffering comes, or we experience loss, it can wake us up to this harmful self-sufficiency. Suffering helps us readjust our focus to where it should have been the whole time: on Jesus.
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3. Jesus can remind us of who he is through our suffering.
Suffering is uncomfortable, but that doesn’t stop Jesus from working.
Through every hardship we face, Jesus is there. His faithfulness to us doesn’t end, and he’s able to bring purpose to every situation.
Jesus wants us to bring all of our emotions, fears, and thoughts to him when we’re suffering. We don’t have to go through these hard seasons alone. Instead, we can process every raw emotion that we have with him, telling him how we’re really feeling. He is our comforter in the midst of pain.
Jesus is also our provider. He promises to supply what we need when we’re going through hard times, and he never leaves us lacking. In every moment he is there.
Jesus is familiar with suffering. His unconditional love for us is shown by what he did on the cross. We can trust Jesus with our suffering because he knows exactly what we’re experiencing, and even more.
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4. Jesus can take our suffering and make it beautiful.
God isn’t usually the first thing I think about when I’m suffering, or even when I see someone else in pain. Hardship usually equals a loss of some sort—going through an experience no one wants to go through. What positives could possibly come from that?
That’s where Jesus comes in.
If we take a look at the cross, there was nothing good about it. It was a horrific way to die. Saved usually for criminals, hanging on a cross was not only extremely painful, but was also a form of public shaming.
But Jesus didn’t leave the cross this way. He rose again. Jesus takes his death, and through it, saves humanity. He suffered so our relationship could be restored with the God of the universe. We are made new because Jesus suffered.
Jesus takes the cross and makes it into a beautiful thing. He does the same with our suffering. He redeems it and uses it for good.
When we’re in the middle of it, it’s hard to even imagine that something good could come from our suffering. I can remember a time where I suffered the loss of a few relationships that were very dear to me. I couldn’t understand why this was happening, and I was so frustrated that the Lord was letting these losses happen to me.
After some time passed, Jesus brought new people into my life who have been so encouraging to me. I’m not sure I would be where I am today if that hardship hadn’t happened. Even suffering can be worth it when the results are this life-changing.
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5. Suffering can produce endurance.
Have you ever trained for something or set a goal that you knew you would have to put some serious work into to accomplish?
I once trained for a half-marathon. I was excited to try to accomplish my goal, but I knew that it would not come without a struggle. I increased the miles that I would run each week, to get my body used to the distance.
It was hard. I would often want to quit. It wasn’t fun pushing myself to limits I hadn’t known before. As I continued to run, training over a couple months, my body got stronger. I could run longer distances without stopping to walk. Pretty soon I was able to run the 13.1 miles. It taught me a lot about myself, and I grew physically and mentally.
The same could be said about the suffering that we go through. Although it’s not enjoyable in the moment, hardships produce something in us that we would never get to if things were always easy. Jesus uses the suffering that we go through to make us look more like him.
Then each time we walk through something hard, we can continue to build upon what he has already started in us—and we continue to grow stronger. This builds endurance. As we’re learning to rely on Jesus, we continue to let him mold and shape us into stronger versions of ourselves.
Your suffering can have purpose. It can lead to a deepening of your faith and bring about a renewal in your relationship with Jesus. But first, we have to choose to let Jesus work through the hardships we face.
He can take what we have experienced and use it for good—good that can, if we let it, lead to a richer relationship with him.
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