In part 1 of this post, we saw that God does some of His greatest works in our lives through suffering, and we began looking at a list of seven reasons for adversity.
For a quick recap, here are the first three:
- The glory of God
- The growth of His servant
- The fulfillment of God’s will
4. The focusing of priorities
During suffering, realities of life change our perspective on priorities. Suddenly, the trivial and petty things that used to mean so much to us, mean almost nothing. Through these times, God refocuses our vision and realigns our priorities with His.
Through a ministry characterized by constant adversity and suffering, Paul’s greatest desire reflected the most important priorities: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10).
Not only does suffering teach us to make our walk with the Lord central, but it reminds us to elevate the needs of our family. Several years ago while on a missions trip to the Philippines, I received several emails late at night that revealed serious ministry turmoil—painful criticism from both within and without the church. In my dingy, dimly-lit hotel room, the Lord realigned my priorities as He reminded me to keep my family as my main focus.
It would have been easy to become swallowed up in those criticisms—defending myself and our church, hurting over the losses, and neglecting the needs of my family in the meantime. But I’m thankful that God spoke to me in that moment, challenging me to love my family and focus on investing in their lives. I’m also thankful today to be able to say that all four of my children went to the wedding altar in purity and are serving the Lord in ministry.
In the end, our family is the first responsibility God has given us. What a loss if we loose these relationships and fail to meet the needs of our families!
5. The advancement of His work
As strange as it sounds, the very trial you are experiencing today could be the unfolding of a greater season of ministry. From the confines of a Roman prison, Paul boldly wrote, “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12).
Indeed, Paul’s suffering was for the furtherance of the Gospel. He had planned to go to Rome as a missionary, but God brought him to Rome as a prisoner instead. And from that prison, Paul led such influential people to Christ that as he finished writing the book of Philippians he could say, “All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household” (Philippians 4:22).
6. The refinement of your vision
We think that we know where we are going and how to get there. We dream big for God’s glory and eagerly try to advance the fulfillment of these dreams.
But first God often refines our dreams. Trials cause us to focus on what matters most. When we find ourselves limited, we are most inclined to ask, “Lord, what do You want me to focus on?”
Through suffering, God refines our vision, and He teaches us to focus our vision on His priorities.
7. To increase our burden for others
No one understands how to minister to someone who is hurting in the same way as someone who has hurt before. Second Corinthians 1:4 describes how God comforts us “in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”
So many times, I have been a recipient of the sustaining comfort of God—ministered through the heart of a Christian friend who had first received the comfort through his own suffering.
Through seasons of adversity, God entrusts us with the precious commodity of His comfort and the ministry of delivering it to hurting hearts. As we experience and share His comfort, we develop a capacity to carry the burdens of others that doesn’t come any other way.
In our limited understanding, we are prone to question God’s goodness in allowing adversity to enter our lives. From our finite narrow vantage point, we are tempted to conclude that our suffering is meaningless.
But God does have a purpose in allowing suffering! While we may never understand the intricacies of His sovereignty and man’s free will or the expanses of His goodness and the effects of sin’s curse, we can know with certainty that He makes “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Through suffering, God brings some of His greatest purposes to fruition. Refuse to question His goodness. Instead, embrace His Word, and let Him accomplish His purposes in and through you.