The Expository Files

The Value of Suffering: Specific Benefits


Though there are questions and issues that may remain unresolved, every Bible student understands that earthly suffering has value. At the time we are suffering the pain, it may be emotionally difficult to realize the value, but we all know that the testing of our faith can produce good results (Jas. 1:2-4; Rom. 5:1-4; 2 Cor. 12:7-10; 1 Pet. 5:10; Heb. 12:5-8). Likewise we believe, God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability (1 Cor. 10:13) and there is a final resting place where no one will endure any pain (Heb. 4:1). We go into every circumstance of adversity with this knowledge. It may help to consider some of the specific benefits of suffering.

Some suffering may yield benefits that simply cannot be discovered during the time of trial. You may have to endure years in some particular kind of trial, and it may be years after that trial before any value is discernable. Intellectually, you may have studied and learned that suffering has value, as mentioned above. But you may not personally discover any value in your own trials until that trial is over, or years later.

When we suffer due to the sinful and irresponsible behavior of others, our exposure to their way of life may intensify our abhorrence of sin. If a loved one living in sin causes you great grief - in your grief, you may realize just how devastating it is to be immoral, to get drunk, to abuse someone, to neglect children or otherwise act without maturity and honor. Of course you have read about the destructive nature of sin in the Bible, but when you see it and suffer because of it, your loathing of it may grow deeper.

During times of adversity, we have opportunity to learn things about ourselves we might not learn in any other way. In the "best of worlds," we read and study the Word of God, examine ourselves and learn exactly who we are and what we need to do. Most of us do not live daily in the "best of worlds." What we do not learn about ourselves in study, we often learn through the test of earthly experience. In trials we may find out we have greater capacity than we thought, or less. In either case, suffering can be an opportunity to become better acquainted with who we are, what we stand for, and how committed we are to the Lord.

Earthly trials will always strengthen our desire for heaven, if we go into the trials with faith in God. Once again, in the "best of worlds," we read and study the Word and discover the beauty of heaven. This hope may become more concentrated and personally powerful in time of trial.

Our suffering can teach us to trust in God, not ourselves. Paul and his co-workers suffered to such an extent, he said they "had the sentence of death;" but he went on to say, "that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead," (2 Cor. 1:9). We need to learn that we - as human beings - are not competent to control everything, or even cope with everything. It may be in time of trial, when we feel like we are sentenced to death, that we really learn to trust in God, not ourselves.

Our suffering may cause us to think about things we would not otherwise consider. It is one thing to study what the Bible says about persecution - but when you are persecuted, you may give greater consideration to the whole subject. It has now become personal.

Suffering always equips us better to sympathize with other sufferers, if not during your own trial, later. Paul told the saints at Corinth and throughout Achaia: "we are afflicted," but it is "for your comfort," (2 Cor. 1:6). The trials of some of God's people yield fruit for others, equipping us to comfort and sympathize with a personal passion we would not have without our own pain. As we suffer, we may learn things we can share with others who are going through similar difficulty.

Suffering may help us learn to study, pray and worship in a better way, with deeper personal involvement. I have observed this in myself and others. "Going to church" can easily become a matter of routine. But when we are tested, pushed and tormented by the pain of earthly life, the hardships can cause us to transform routine into reality. This list does not exhaust all the benefits, but may help us start thinking.

At the end of a particular time of pain, you may have a deeper gratitude for simple blessings. To be able to resume your normal diet after extended illness; the peace you enjoy after a period of grief or turmoil - when the dust has settled and the battle is history, you may have a better and deeper sense of gratitude for simple things God provides routinely.

Finally, remember this: We not only suffer, we enjoy many blessings; we not only observe tragedy, we observe victory. Helen Keller said, "although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it."

By Warren E. Berkley
The Final Page
 From Expository Files 7.12; December 2000