Joni Eareckson Tada has been a quadriplegic for over 50 years. She broke her neck in a diving accident when she was only 16. But God has used her mightily ever since to share the gospel. She co-authored the book, When God Weeps. In it she says, “If I love God, suffering does not ultimately matter. Christ in me is what matters. Pain does not cease to be pain, but I can ‘rejoice in suffering’ because the power of God in my life is greater than suffering’s vice-grip can ever be. I want to see the sculpture finished.” I heard her say one time that when she dies and goes to heaven; she wants to take her wheelchair with her, so that she can thank Jesus for it. Why? Because she says without it, she never would have known her Savior the way she does. Suffering brings intimacy with God.
The question so many Christians have a difficult time answering is, “why?”
Why does God allow hardship and pain into the lives of His children? In John 16:33 Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Christians are not exempt from the trials and hardships of life because we live in a fallen world. Therefore, it is not a question of if we are going to encounter trials, but when.
From Scripture, we know that God does not waste hardship on us. He has a purpose for the trial we are encountering. The suffering that Christians endure is part of God’s plan. 1 Peter 4:19 states, “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” Suffering is part of the will of God. He will give us complete understanding of His ways when we get to heaven.
For the believer, pain and suffering have an eternal purpose, and God can and will work them out for good. Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him…” Here’s the deal: if you choose to follow Christ, He promises to work everything out for good for those who love Him – even bankruptcy, even amputated legs, even the death of a child, even you fill in the blank. Our life here is short. Christians will be on the other side of death very soon. Then, we will see how God used our trials and tribulations for eternal good.
So, what should you do when you encounter a difficult trial? James writes, “Consider it all joy!” In other words, we are to evaluate life’s trials and storms in light of what God is doing. He is conforming you into the likeness of His Son, Jesus. He is the Sculptor, and you are the sculpture. There will be a day when all of our “why” questions will be answered. And in that day, we will rejoice, and no one will ever take away our joy!
Finally, know this – God will not let you suffer alone. Isaiah 43:3 says, “Did I not say to you that ‘when you pass through the waters, I will be with you and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned.” He promises to be with you always! Take heart.