Let’s continue our study on suffering. Suffering exists because God’s good world has been broken by sin. Today, we’ll talk about how, for believers, suffering has significance—or meaning—for our lives, both in the present and for eternity. Scripture reveals this in a couple of ways. First, the apostles (people who walked with Jesus while He was on earth) taught that believers are called to share both in Christ’s comfort and in His sufferings (1 Peter 2:21). Because we follow a suffering Savior, we can expect to suffer as well. These authors also pointed out that when believers suffer, it’s intimately connected to Christ’s own suffering, using phrases like “share his suffering” (Romans 8:17). So, we can remind ourselves that our suffering as the body of Christ has unique significance because it’s connected to the suffering of Jesus. In our suffering, we can look to Jesus—who suffered the cross on our behalf, then resurrected from the dead—and find comfort in His presence. We are never alone in our pain.
Second, God can use affliction to draw us near to Himself—which is the best place to be (Psalm 73:28). One psalmist says: “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees” (Psalm 119:71). Through the Holy Spirit, God is always at work to lovingly form us more and more into the likeness of Jesus because He knows it’s the only way for us to be truly whole. The author of Hebrews echoes this, stating God disciplines His children—and that His discipline is “always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). While not all suffering is necessarily discipline, these and other passages still give us a lot to think about (Luke 13:1-5; John 9:1-3; Colossians 1:24).
As a teen, most of the Bible studies I used tiptoed around the topic of suffering. Yet, if we don’t dig into scriptural truth about suffering, how can we withstand difficulties—including persecution—without losing hope in God’s love and goodness? But if we know we will face great trials, we can be a bit more ready for their inevitable arrival. However, as Peter joyfully reminds us in 1 Peter 1:6, our troubles are but “for a little while,” and our hope and comfort in Jesus will last forever. Amen! • G. Kam Congleton
• God can draw us nearer to Himself at any time (including good times) and through any circumstance. How might God use suffering to help us grow closer to Him?
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)