3 Ways God Uses Suffering for Good
Tragedies are riddles—and not the fun and amusing kind of riddles. Rather, they are painful and mind-boggling. Events happen without explanation and without any apparent reason. This is certainly what Job must have struggled with when his family, wealth, and health were taken from him (Job 3). Yet, Job knew God was in control, and we know also that he is a loving and caring Father to his children.
Our comfort, then, is that our Father who loves us (Eph. 2:4) controls all things for our good (Rom. 8:28). Even in our suffering, God is working for our spiritual good. Here are three ways we see God’s love for his children and how he brings about good through suffering.
1. The Messiah Comes through Women’s Suffering
Matthew 1:1-17 recounts Jesus’ family line, and it includes women whose lives were marked by suffering and pain. Tamar was an abandoned widow, with few resources for her future, who tricked her father-in-law in order to have children (Gen. 38). Rahab was saved from destruction, but her city was completely destroyed (Josh. 2-6). Ruth was a poor young widow who moved to a foreign land (Ruth 1-4). Bathsheba was shamefully used by King David, and her husband was murdered (2 Sam. 11-12). Mary, most likely a very young girl, was suspected of adultery (Matt. 1:18-20).
While a few of these microstories ended positively, each woman still experienced great suffering. The genealogy of Matthew teaches us that the real closure to these women’s stories comes in Christ. Because Jesus joined himself to their histories, their struggles and suffering became links to provide good for the nations. Through their sufferings, God brought salvation to his people.
2. Salvation through Jesus’ Suffering
“‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son,’” (John 3:16). Sometimes I think to myself, what a crummy trade-off for Jesus. God the Son, who had perfect fellowship with his Father, who knew no pain or sorrow, became a man. Here on earth Jesus in his humanity experienced pain, humiliation, dishonor, hatred, hunger, unbelief, torture, abandonment, rejection, the full onslaught of Satan’s temptations, the wrath of his Father, and death. He did not deserve any of theses things.
Yet, Jesus' suffering was not the end of the story. He rose from the dead! He is now with our Father in Heaven preparing a place for his brothers and sisters (John 14:2). Jesus suffered to bring salvation to his people. Because of his suffering and work, our messy, painful histories are used by God for our spiritual good, and will culminate into something grand—an everlasting inheritance (Heb. 9:15).
3. Growth in Holiness through Our Suffering
God has given us ample evidence that he uses suffering for his children’s good. Through the women’s sufferings, God brought Christ to us. Through the suffering of Christ, God blesses his people with everlasting life. While we may not understand the “why” of our sufferings, in Christ we do have a loving relationship with God who is in control. He is for us, not against us (Rom. 8:32).
God uses the suffering of his children to strengthen their faith and to grow them in Christ (Rom. 5:3). Christ suffered, and his people will suffer too (2 Tim. 2:3). Whether it’s persecution for the faith, the failings of an ailing body, the worries and toils of everyday life, living through tragedies, or the struggle against indwelling sin, suffering is an expected part of the Christian’s life (1 Pet. 5:9). As Christ carried his cross, so will his people (Luke 9:23). Yet, those who are in Christ can be assured that their sufferings will be used for good and all will be made right at the consummation, because their good Father is in control.
An End to Sad Riddles through Jesus
Through Jesus Christ, God makes those who are sinful and separated from God his beloved children. Only in Christ can our tears be turned into laughter. Only in him can our suffering find redemption. Christ suffered so that God might shower his many gifts on his children (Eph. 2:7). Christ suffered so that the children might have a Father and experience blessing now and forever. In Christ our sad riddles are turned into joyous poetry.