Silver Linings in Dark Places
Surveying the various good outcomes God frequently produces from our agonies requires a careful word of caution.
Because knowing the mind of God is impossible (Romans 11:33-34), discerning His intentions demands humility. Though it is true that God may have a singular goal for our afflictions, His desired end is often multifaceted and complex. You may understand something of God’s design for your hardships, but the full breadth of His intentions is often incomprehensible.
Grasping for understanding of what God might be teaching you is commendable, but speaking dogmatically for Him is not. We should be proactive in order to grow, without being presumptuous regarding the Lord. With these boundaries in place, the following list is by no means comprehensive. These are just some of the beneficial results God brings into our lives through our suffering.
Trials Grow and Strengthen Our Faith
Because God is more concerned with our character than our comfort, sometimes He chooses to use calamity in order to sanctify us. James 1:2-4 explains:
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
- If ease or happiness is your primary goal in life, you will likely feel frustrated and betrayed when God chooses to deepen your maturity through a trial.
The potential for meaningful development and growth, however, may be greatest when we are hurting the most. Will you eagerly follow a God who will likely break you in order to mature your commitment to Him?
Before Carson was sick, I confess that my life was relatively easy — no major heartache and few serious problems to weather. This first real challenge to my faith tested everything I said I believed. Even though I had preached for more than a decade with an adequate knowledge of the Scriptures, suddenly my situation forced me to reckon with my confidence in the fundamentals of my faith.
Surface faith will not suffice when circumstances threaten what you treasure most in life.
I am thankful that throughout our dilemma, my confidence in God’s truth only deepened. Before I might have told you what I believe about Christianity. Today I can tell you what I know from firsthand experience.
Trials Deepen Our Fellowship with Jesus and Reveal His Strength
When speaking about his primary goal for living, the apostle Paul reminds disciples of Jesus of the need to seek to
know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. — Philippians 3:10
Though most of us are eager to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection, we are less enthusiastic about the fellowship of His sufferings. Do not forget, however, that the agony of Golgotha preceded the glory of His victory over the grave. As we learned previously, experiencing the power of Christ’s resurrection begins on the road of heartache.
In a similar way, receiving God’s power in our lives will require enduring great wounds without wavering. Apart from suffering, we simply cannot learn about God or relate to Him on an intimate level. Believing that God is real and present is one thing; trusting that He is enough, no matter what we face, is another thing entirely.
Though we are quite capable of cognitively grasping these ideas, we cannot embrace them fully until we experience their reality for ourselves.
- Trials force us to move beyond superficial knowledge of Jesus into a meaningful, daily walk with Him.
Even those who believe the gospel and claim a relationship with God sometimes fail to live in light of their commitment. Tragically, though we know God is there, we seldom feel like we need Him. Before Carson’s diagnosis, I often preached about the peace of God, but I seldom felt like I needed it. My prayer life was consistent, but it left much to be desired. I read my Bible to prepare sermons, but I rarely did so with desperation to hear from the Lord. My outward obedience was, at times, lacking the inward fellowship with God that I now crave.
Maybe you can relate. Do you pray more when times are tough? Is your Bible always close by when you are searching for answers? Is your church worship attendance noticeably more frequent when things have gone awry in your life? Why are these patterns so apparent? Stated simply, it’s because suffering forces us to live what we really believe. Thus, the Lord beckons us into a deeper, more meaningful fellowship with Jesus through the doorway of hardship. In our weakness, we move from having a cognitive awareness of His strength to experiencing the personal peace it brings.
Trials Increase Our Effectiveness in Serving Others
We seldom consider how our current struggles might prepare us for future service, yet God often equips us to serve others as a result of our most painful experiences. In 2 Corinthians 1:4, we learn that God the Father
comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
In addition to the personal benefit God produces, the fruit of adversity in our lives will often bear the seeds of comfort for other hurting believers along the way. The Lord’s intention to comfort us is also His investment in bearing the pain of others who are not even hurting yet. When we enjoy the supernatural peace that surpasses our understanding today, we become distributors of that same consolation to others tomorrow and every day thereafter (Philippians 4:7).
Today I regularly receive calls from other pastors and churches whenever a child they know is diagnosed with cancer of some sort. Though I was completely unaware of it at the time, God was giving my wife and me the gift of His comfort so that we could share it with other hurting people. Your trials will enable you to do the same.
Trials Embolden Other Christians to Be Courageous for Christ
Similar to its impact on those outside of Christianity, resolute commitment to the Lord despite adverse realities is a powerful motivator for other believers as well. Again, God’s servant to the Gentiles is a powerful example of maximizing our deepest moments of despair for the kingdom of God. Philippians 1:14 celebrates this: “Most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.” In other words, Paul’s devotion to Christ in prison was a powerful influence on believers who were not suffering. Those who were less committed were challenged to devote their lives to the gospel because one man was willing to serve God under any circumstance.
Think about the Christians who inspire you the most. Chances are you watched them walk through a season of difficulty without wavering. When I was a boy, my favorite teacher fought a brain tumor for nearly four years. This giant of a man demonstrated the substance of Christianity to me in a profound way. Before one of his surgeries, he sat me down in the hallway of my elementary school one day and declared, “I am not afraid to die, and you won’t be either if you will live every day of your life for Jesus Christ.” That conversation still impacts me today. Mr. A, as we called him, ultimately lost his earthly battle with cancer, but he is still enjoying his heavenly reward for such profound faithfulness. His life emboldened me to give myself more fully to my Savior. Your suffering may allow you to do the same for someone else.
Trials Can Be a Form of Discipline Intended to Produce Repentance
No Christian will ever experience the condemnation of God (Romans 8:1). However, Scripture explicitly teaches that God does discipline those who belong to Him. Hebrews 12:9–11 reminds us:
Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Sometimes trials are the consequences of our sinful choices and actions. Other times our adversities may not be directly traceable to a specific moment of disobedience, but God intends to produce greater holiness within us nonetheless. God loves us too much to ignore any behavior or perspective that would push us away from Him. Like a loving father, He carefully and expeditiously works to correct us when we stray. Though this involvement in our lives can be painful at times, it proves God’s affection for us rather than His abandonment of us.
Excerpted with permission from Hope When Life Unravels by Adam Dooley, copyright Adam B. Dooley.
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Your pain has purpose. It has meaning. It’s not just random and it isn’t unknown to God, nor unseen by Him. God loves His children more than we could possibly comprehend. In the darkness of pain, look for the silver linings and thank the Lord! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily