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How God Uses Suffering To Mature Us

December 11, 2018

 

There is a passage of Scripture I’ve been meditating on. A passage that is packed with truth pertaining to God’s desire to use pain and suffering for our good and His glory. A passage that clearly lays out how God desires to mature us and grow us up through the pain and suffering that comes at us, at times completely unexpectedly, in this life. 

 

I say “God desires” because you and I have a role in this. 

 

You see, there are many folks who instead of approaching pain and suffering with a heart of humility and surrender to the Lord and His sovereign purposes in the midst of suffering, will instead run away from Him in these times. Or stop trusting Him in these times. Or choose to stop believing in Him altogether in these times. 

 

Of course, these paths don’t lead to adequate answers and they surely don’t lead to a place of true hope and peace. They don’t lead to a place of godly growth and maturity. But I get it. I really do. I get the temptation, especially when your world has been turned upside down. 

 

While I have had it far easier than others have, I do know the hurt and confusion that comes when your entire life feels like it is falling apart. When everything that felt so steady and sure seems to be crumbling right in front of you and there is nothing you can do about it. 

 

It’s the worst. It really is. 

 

It is difficult to explain the emptiness and fear that is felt in these times. It truly is like falling into a pit of utter darkness and despair. Will the light ever shine again? It is hard to imagine that it will.

 

But what we must remember in these times is that God is not the One we should run away from. Rather, He is the One we ought to run to.  

 

In the pit of pain, the Lord is not our enemy, He is our friend.

 

He is our greatest friend.

 

This is the message James, the brother of Jesus, wanted to communicate to the suffering Christians he was writing to in his New Testament letter. The passage I have in mind, the passage I’ve been meditating on, comes from James 1:2-4, which reads:

 

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

 

These Christians are experiencing all kinds of hardships and trials and their Pastor James is writing to encourage them and give them hope. To help them see that there is in fact purpose in their pain. 

 

Now, when we first read James 1:2-4, on the surface it really doesn’t make a ton of sense. I mean think about it. He is writing to suffering, hurting men and women and he says, “Count it all joy,” or as another translation puts it, “count yourselves supremely happy.”

 

How are these words supposed to be encouraging to these folks? It sounds irrational. 

 

But James is not saying that these Christians, or any of us, are supposed to enjoy our trials. He is not saying we are to enjoy our suffering. He is not saying we are to somehow convince ourselves that having cancer is fun, that it feels good. Or that we should be excited about the fact that we just lost our job and have no idea how we are going to pay the bills this month. Or that it should make us happy that our marriage is in shambles right now and we have no idea how to get it turned around. Or it shouldn’t bother us that one of our children is far from the Lord and couldn’t care less about Jesus. 

 

No, what James is saying is that when trials come our way (and they will), when suffering and pain come our way (and they will), when these things happen, in the midst of the trial, we are to “count it all joy…” because God is up to something. He is up to something really good even if it doesn’t look like it on the surface.

 

The question of course is: What is God up to? What is God doing though this trial in my life that should cause me to “count it all joy”? 

 

James gives us the answer in this passage and the answer is this: God wants to mature us. He wants to grow us up, that we might become spiritually mature. That we might become strong and steady in the Lord. 

 

That when our world falls apart we might be rooted deeply in the presence and power of Almighty God.

 

This is what God is up to in our suffering.

 

Again, James 1:2-4, reads:

 

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

 

You see, a solid, steadfast faith is developed through painful trials and testing. And this solid, steadfast faith ultimately has its FULL effect as it grows each of us in spiritual maturity. That is what the word “perfect” in verse 4 means: Maturity. James says, “that you may be perfect (or mature) and complete, lacking in nothing.”

 

The Lord uses trials in our lives. He uses pain and suffering in our lives. He uses these to mature us in Him. 

 

This work of spiritual maturity that God through His Holy Spirit does in us results in at least three things:

 

#1: Our spiritual maturity leads us to greater joy in Christ.

 

As we mature spiritually, we grow in deeper devotion, deeper satisfaction in the Lord. We increasingly understand and believe that He truly is everything. He is more than enough for us.

 

It is amazing how trials reveal what we value. What we love most. What our treasure truly is. As the Lord matures us through suffering, He graciously shows us that He alone is the treasure we’ve been longing for. He alone is the treasure that will satisfy us both in this life and in the life to come.

 

#2: Our spiritual maturity is for the good of others. 

 

David Powlison writes, “Spiritual maturity is not an end in itself but is a gift for others.” 

 

As we mature in our faith, God will use us to minister to others. To care for and encourage others who are experiencing the same kind of pain we have experienced. 

 

A mark of spiritual maturity is regularly asking, “Lord, how can I use what I’m going through for the benefit and building up of others?” Maybe take a few moments and ask God this very question even now. 

 

 

#3: Our spiritual maturity brings much glory to God.

 

As we grow in our love for God and His Word, and as we mature in our love for Him, more deeply tasting and trusting in God’s love for us through Christ, the Lord is increasingly glorified in us. 

 

Bringing glory to God should be the primary goal of our life, which means it should be the primary goal of our suffering.

 

As we learn to empathize with others, looking for ways to show the love of Christ to those who are hurting and going through their own trials, God is glorified in us. 

 

 

James says,

 

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

 

What is God up to in our pain? What is God doing though this trial in my life? In your life?

 

He is growing us up.

 

He is making us more like Christ.

 

He is maturing us in Him…

 

…for our joy, the good of others, and His ultimate glory. 

 

 

Let us be mindful and thankful of God’s work in us in these darkest of life’s moments. There is indeed purpose in this pain.

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