The Purpose of Trials and Suffering
Updated: May 3, 2022
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3
Dear Lord Jesus,
I am blessed to be chosen by Your saving grace. Not only does Your grace save me, but Your grace helps me to rejoice in my sufferings, knowing that I am saved. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I’ll be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior (Isaiah 43:1-3). Lord, I know You don't promise that there won’t be any waters, rivers, or fires for Your children. But what You do promise me is that You will be there when I go through them, and Your grace will be poured out onto me abundantly so that I may endure them. The grace of our Lord was poured on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 1:14). Lord, I praise You for Your grace, faithfulness, and love through Your beloved Son, Jesus.
The Cornerstone of the Christian Life
Here is something important to understand about the Christian life. This is the cornerstone of Christian living, and it is simply this: I will have trouble, and I will inevitably suffer for the sake of Christ. In the Christian life, trouble is inescapable, yet it is also purposeful and very useful. The troubles in my life often time serve far greater purposes than I am able to fully comprehend now; reasons beyond my scope and finite mind. Trials and suffering in the Christian life are to prepare me for the bulk of the rest of my existence and ultimately - to bring glory to God. On the other side of eternity, the troubles that I face now will soon be revealed and more clearly understood then, compounding the joy I will have for all eternity. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). That is why God commands me to rejoice in my sufferings because I trust in God’s promises, and I believe in God’s plan and goodness for my life, no matter what turmoil or chaos may be surrounding me. He has His purposes for it, and I trust Him, which brings me peace and joy in the midst of them. Even if I must wait for the next life to see the fullness of God’s goodness be revealed to me, I must walk by faith now and not by sight. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
Troubles are also very useful because they help prove the evidence of my faith and give me assurance of my salvation. They help reveal my true spiritual condition, humble me, and strengthen my intimacy and personal relationship with Jesus. My sufferings in this life allow God to put His attributes on display and showcase His amazing grace through them, in which I praise Him for who He is. Ultimately, it's to bring Him glory. And when God puts His grace on display in my life through my suffering, I am also able to point others to the glory of God in the face of Christ so that others too can see the light of the gospel and be saved. See, this is God's story, not mine. This life is all about God and His glory, and it's simply not about me. However, by His grace I am blessed beyond measure to be chosen for His kingdom and be a part of His story.
Sufficient Grace to Suffer for Christ
God does not promise to remove trouble in my life, but He does promise to give me enough of His grace to endure it. Second Corinthians 12:9 says, But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you. The word sufficient means enough. I will have enough grace for whatever troubles I may face, so I am never to be fearful, for I know the surpassing grace of God has been given to me (2 Corinthians 9:14). As a true Christian, I am to expect persecution for Christ, trouble, difficulty, temptation, setbacks, disappointment, and pain in this life. But I am also to trust that God’s grace is sufficient for me, and He will help me to endure it and ultimately, overcome it all. This is because Christ overcame the world when He defeated death once and for all on the cross, and by grace through faith, I am eternally secure in Him. I have said these things to you, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33). I am called to suffer for the sake of Christ, since He suffered greatly for me throughout His life, and He suffered the ultimate death in order to save me from my sins. How could I not suffer well for the One who died for me? And furthermore, my sufferings could never even begin to compare to what Christ had suffered for me, in my place. I am to follow in His footsteps and suffer well for my Lord and Savior. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21). For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake (Philippians 1:29).
The Modern-Day False Gospel
God never promises to take away trials and suffering in the life of a Christian. See, that is the modern-day gospel that runs rampant in the false church. In the seeker-sensitive movement of today's world, which appeals to the unbelieving world and the carnal mind, many false pastors preach that God wants everyone happy, carefree, healthy, comfortable, earthly blessed, and rich. This damning and deceptive message takes the exact things I am supposed to give up to follow Christ and makes them the very attraction of the gospel itself. This dangerous gospel gives the carnal mind what it already wants in its unregenerate, depraved state, and in turn, produces false conversions all over the map; lost people who are self-deceived by counterfeit Christianity and aren't able to comprehend the gravity of what it truly means to be born again and have authentic saving faith in Christ. Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again" (John 3:3). The most responsible thing any professing Christian could ever do in this life is examine to make sure he or she is truly in the faith, based off the Word of God and not based off their own feelings or finite mind on what they think faith means to them personally. Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered (Proverbs 28:26). (Read the book of First John to examine your faith biblically to make sure you're resting eternally secure in Christ).
God’s purposes are not for your life to be easy and comfortable, successful and prosperous, or healthy and wealthy like so many false pastors preach in their mega churches. In reality, that's the devil's desires for you. That's because Satan's underlying motives have nothing to do with your true joy and peace, but everything to do with deceiving you and keeping you from Jesus Christ, the only source of true joy and peace. It’s the devil who would like to make your life happy, prosperous, successful, comfortable, easy, and tranquil. That's because when you are comfortable right where you’re at, you don't feel the need to repent of your sins; you don’t feel the need to call on God; you don't feel the need to lean on God; you don't feel the need to cry out to God to relieve your burdens, nor do you feel the need to thank Him for His grace to endure them.
God's Message Versus the Devil's Message
The prosperity message is the devil’s message, and it's all about serving self and the elevation of self, which is rooted in pride. And pride is the root of all sin. The devil calls for us to seek the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, the pride of life - things that are all passing away quickly in this short life. God’s message is a message of suffering and grace. God calls for us to seek the things that are above, not the things on the earth (Colossians 3:2). This life is short and eternity is long, and so it is only reasonable that we live this short life in the light of eternity. God commands us to focus on that which is eternal, as opposed to that which is fleeting and temporal (2 Corinthians 4:18).
God calls us to be humble, for humility is the essence of Christianity and the foundation of true saving faith in Christ, in which all other virtues flow. For example, humility produces joy from the thought of Jesus Christ dying for my sins when I know I deserve hell. Knowing that I am an undeserving, unworthy person who has been given such a tremendous gift gives me so much joy! And that joy is pure and constant. I rejoice not in who I am and what I think I deserve in this world, but I rejoice in who God is, how magnificent He is, and what He did for me on the cross, when I know I only deserve His eternal wrath. Biblical Christianity, true Christianity is diametrically opposed to what the world is always telling us, and that's why true Christians look like aliens in this world. For we are listening to Jesus and not the world. The world glorifies, elevates, and focuses on self, but Jesus says, "Deny yourself" And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23). And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:27). We will do well to listen to Jesus (especially when He repeats Himself), rather than listening to the world and all its deceiving messages that get us to focus on ourselves over Christ - our only hope, for He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
Humility Generates Joy
The attitude of humility and a sense of unworthiness naturally generates true joy, in which I don't demand things from God with the belief that I am deserving, but I humbly receive things from God with delight and gratitude, knowing I am undeserving. My joy is lost whenever I begin to think that I am too good to be suffering, that I don't deserve to suffer or have trouble in my life, or when I begin to question, "Why me?" See, this is the perspective of so many lost people in this world, but it is the wrong perspective to have if one is searching for true joy and peace. Holding onto this perspective is blinding and would only cause more grief amongst trials. A perspective like this would only get me to focus on myself and take my eyes off the only source of true joy and peace that exists, and that is Jesus Christ. True joy comes from fully recognizing what Christ has done for me and knowing that unlike my ever-changing circumstances and feelings, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). If as a Christian I lose my joy, I need not to look at my circumstances, but I need to examine my relationship with the Lord and my obedience to His Word. See, Jesus never changes, so my joy in Him and what He did for me, is rooted in His unshakeable foundation. Grounded in humility, joy is the ultimate confidence that God is in complete control of my life, including the various trials and sufferings that He calls me to face all for His glory. The purpose He has in my trials and sufferings are for my good. I know that because I trust His Word and His goodness for my life, and I don't lean on my own understanding. For we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7)
Lord, I praise You for using suffering as a tool to humble me and exalt You instead, increasing my joy and gratitude in You. Lord, I praise You for using suffering as a tool to call me into closer intimacy and communion with You, growing in my faith and obedience to You. I praise You for using suffering to take refuge in You, to trust in You more deeply, and to put Your grace and love on display so that through my suffering I may help point others to the light of the gospel; to You, my gracious and glorious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
All glory belongs to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Help me to suffer well for You and bring You glory in everything I do, say, and think. In Jesus’ Name I pray, amen.
PS. To read part two of this devotion, check out: Count it All Joy
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 1 Peter 4:12-16
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11
All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever. 1 Peter 1:24