By Mike Porter
A constant question throughout our lives is why do we go through trials. We know the old adage “bad things happen to good people," but that’s difficult to grasp when good things are happening to bad people around us. Well, here are eight reasons God lets us go through seasons of suffering:
1. To test the genuineness of our faith. Our faithful response to suffering demonstrates we are children of God. A false faith will fall away when the going gets rough. What a blessing it is as God confirms in our hearts through suffering that we are conquerors in the midst of sufferings, trials and persecutions (Matt 13:1-23 (esp. v20-21), 2 Thess 1:3-5, Acts 14:22, Matt 10:38, Luke 22:28-29, Rom 8:17, 31-39, 2 Tim 2:12, 1 Cor 15:1-2, Col 1:21-23, Job chapters 1-2).
2. To develop our spiritual muscles. God wants to grow our faith, holiness and godliness, and just as when a weight lifter must have resistance to his muscles to grow new muscle tissue, so the believer needs suffering to develop in maturity in the faith. In addition, sometimes we suffer because God is disciplining us as a loving Father disciplines his son or daughter, that we may forsake sinful, harmful ways and pursue His path of godliness (Jas 1:2-4, Rom 5:3-5, Job 23:10, Heb 2:1, 10, 12:1-15, 2 Tim 3:12, Gal 6:6-8)
3. To learn greater dependence on God. When we experience His comfort, we draw closer to God and develop more our intimacy with God in prayer. (2 Cor 12:7-10, 2 Cor 1:3-10, Heb 2:18)
4. To give us a greater “heavenly homesickness.” Suffering makes us strongly aware that our heavenly home is our destination, and this life and it’s trinkets and treasures are fleeting, temporary and not worthy of our focused attention- so we fix our eyes on the unseen, the eternal treasures. (2 Cor 5:1-8, Heb 11:13-16, Matt 6:19-20)
5. For the purpose of ministry. The suffering that we go through is a means to later minister to others with God’s comfort and encouragement in their similar suffering. (2 Cor 1:3-10, Heb 2:18). We also learn in suffering to draw nearer to other believers and receive from them comfort and encouragement (2 Cor 1:3-10). We pray for each other and grow closer in love. Believers that suffer together love together.
6. To remind us of the eternal reward that awaits us. We’re challenged through eyes of faith that our sufferings are very light and temporary compared to the eternal weight of glory and rewards we receive by responding faithfully to suffering (Rom 8:17, 2:7, 2 Cor 4:17, Heb 11:26, 1 Pet 1:6-7)
7. To draw believers and nonbelievers to him. Suffering for non-believers can be what wakes them up to their own weakness, mortality and need for God’s salvation, power, and forgiveness. Likewise, suffering can be what reorients a believer’s heart around their dependency on Christ.
8. Finally and most importantly, to make his name known. God has a master plan to “bring many sons to glory” (Heb 2:10). It brings God ultimate glory to save rebellious sinners and bring them into a loving relationship with himself. To do that, by necessity, there must be a fallen world that has the chance to rebel against Him. And so God’s great love, mercy, forgiveness and grace is seen when He saves the rebellious sinner (Rom 5:20, 1 Tim 1:12-17).