God could deliver us at any moment. Our all powerful creator that put the stars in the sky could, no doubt, change our life in an instant and bring freedom from our current circumstances without blinking. So why doesn’t He? As we look through scripture He paints a pretty clear picture as to why we suffer and struggle. To sum it up in as succinctly as possible, if He delivered us instantly, we wouldn’t need Him. We would give ourselves all the glory and, instead of worshiping the one true God, we would worship ourselves in all of our own power and ability. The journey of our faith is a path that leads us to dependence rather than independence. The struggles that we face cause us to look to Him in need rather than to our own strength. To short circuit this process, we would be short changing the transformation required to be able to rule in reign with Him rather than ruling our own kingdoms and making a mess of it all.
Paul discusses his own battle in 2 Corinthians 12. He begged for God to deliver him from a messenger of Satan that was tormenting him. Three times he pleaded with God to deliver him from his struggles. But instead of delivering Paul God responded with, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (v. 9).” Paul knew that God was sparing him from becoming conceited and looking to his own strength for his deliverance and freedom. Instead of seeing his struggles as not being loved by God, he saw his own weakness as opportunities to depend on the Lord’s strength and delighted in the work that God was doing in his heart and faith through his trials. He saw the purpose behind what God was doing by NOT delivering Him and we must do the same.
Purpose of Trials
When we look at what scripture says about our struggles and suffering this side of eternity there are several reasons that we can identify that help give us hope.
1.) Stuggles transform us:
10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.
As we choose to look to the Father for our strength and submit to His will rather than our own, we change. We have limited wisdom and understanding but He sees all and knows exactly what we need to be transformed into His likeness. When we participate in his suffering, we die to ourselves bit by bit and are changed when we do. In this process, we learn to trust, we learn to lean, we learn to live step by step with the heartbeat of heaven and a kingdom that is not our own. While it is painful, it is necessary. Because without our struggles, we wouldn’t need Him. We wouldn’t be the desperate, hungry souls that stare at our barrenness and come to the conclusion that we are not enough.
2.) Struggles mature us:
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
The journey of suffering is an ancient path. It is one that all the saints that have been before you have walked as they’ve grown in the knowledge of who He is. It is part of the maturation process of all of the great ones in the faith that have continued to choose Him through the valleys of this life. You are not alone. Whatever battle that you are facing, it is a divine gift from God to produce the character that you need to become like Him.
King David knew he was going to be king at a young age, but lived in the caves first, fighting many battles, running for his life as he held onto his promise before being promoted. He needed the character from these struggles to be able to rule and reign in a way that honored God.
Joseph wasn’t promoted to second in command of Egypt without a lifetime process of being transformed first through the trials of slavery, imprisonment, being wrongfully accused and working for many years as a no body before he became a somebody that rescued an entire nation from famine and starvation.
When we look at the intense encounters that Daniel had in the lions den and the fiery furnace, Moses suffering through 80 years in the desert, Job losing everything. Anyone in the Bible that ever did anything worth writing about, wasn’t immune to this journey that we find ourselves on. If you are suffering right now, know that you are on the right path and its a path of maturity that is shining a light of hope for you to know that He is completing a great work in you.
3.) Struggles test our faith:
1 Peter 1:6-7
6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Trials come to highlight what we truly believe. The shake the parts and pieces of us away that are not rooted in His truth and the reality of who He is. Its when the storms are raging around us that we are tested to see if we believe- Is God good? Is He faithful? Will He provide, deliver, and show up for me? When we look at the world through our natural eyes and put our eyes on our circumstances, it is easy to doubt. Waves are real. Waves do drown people. Boats do sink. However, an even greater reality is the truth that we do not see with our natural eyes. Our Father in heaven does rule over our natural circumstances, He is on His throne and fully in control, He does love me and is forever faithful.
When we are tested, each opportunity that is given to us through our trials, produces in us a genuineness to our faith that enables us to stand on His truth, regardless of what we are walking through. And that builds a history in Him, that we can lean on, to encourage us on the journey until we see Him face to face. Those moments of victory give you something to stand on when the next battle comes. And it’s the fiercest battles that you face that give you badges of honor on the other side that are worth talking about and sharing with others so that they can make it too.
4.) Our struggles help others:
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
Jesus came as a man and faced every trial and tribulation that we will ever face and then some. He did this so that when we are walking through our own trials, He could comfort us and say, “I understand. I get it. I’ve been there.” We in turn take this to others so that they can have hope and comfort too.
If you haven’t walked through something you don’t have the opportunity to speak into someone else’s life that is in that same place and bring them any degree of hope. You can’t say, “I understand” because you don’t. Every battle you have ever fought, every chain every broken in your life, every moment of suffering that you have walked through- gives you the honor of speaking life to others and purpose to your pain. From your one battle and subsequent victory, 10 people might be set free from your story. They in turn take this to 10 others. The process repeats and exponentially freedom, truth, and hope grows. His kingdom comes through your story as you share it with others.
5.) Struggles teach us his decrees:
71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.
There is a transformation process that happens when we have knowledge in our heads that becomes a reality in our hearts. The struggles that we face teach us these truths that we find in scripture.
When we talk about Jehovah Jireh, our provider, we talk about a God that shows up and meets all of your needs. We can know this in our heads and say it out of our mouths but there is a reality that comes when you are in a place that in the natural- your end of the month finances show that the bills will not be getting paid, you will not have the money for those groceries and its looking pretty obvious that things shouldn’t be working out for you- and yet time and time again He meets your needs. Somehow, someway… you don’t go hungry or end up homeless. If you didn’t walk through those moments of leanness and watch God show up for you over and over, the reality of God being your provider might not be as real to you.
When we talk about God as our redeemer, restorer, deliverer- if we hadn’t had moments of brokenness and subsequent need to be rescued and our lives put back together again, would we have the ability to even begin to comprehend the reality of what it even means to talk about God in this way. If you haven’t ever known any mourning, could you truly appreciate joy? If mountain top moments were always your reality and you hadn’t experienced the valleys of life- could you even understand the gift you had been given?
The purpose of this life is to know Him, be joined to His heart, and transformed into His likeness. The tools that He uses to get us there and complete this process that He has begun in us, are the struggles, the valleys, the suffering. However, they are all temporary. Whatever it takes this side of eternity for our hearts to say “YES” to Him is worth it. This lifetime is but a whisper in the wind compared to the eternity that awaits us and the glory and pure joy that He promises us for all of time.
Stay tuned for what He promises us for our suffering….