So in the last post I covered an overview… Almost a bird’s-eye view of pain and it’s role and purpose in our lives and in God’s story from creation to the new heavens and new earth. This is like the backdrop to these next posts. It sets the scene, but now I want to look deeper at the purpose in our pain. I read once that suffering without meaning/purpose = despair. I think there is a lot of truth in this, and while I do not intend by any means to explain away suffering, I would like to share what gave me hope and purpose in it and lifted the despair that sometimes threatened to crush me. Suffering causes us to question… What is the purpose to my suffering? And what is God doing?… And people were quick to answer (sometimes too quick). And the answers I was given were nearly always these…
1) So that people can see our response to suffering and come to know God.
2) So we become equipped and able to minister to others who are suffering.
3) Suffering is a refining of our character.
Although there is truth in each of these, they all fell flat for me at some point, and were not enough to make sense of what I was going through and give hope and purpose. Here I share my wrestle to find purpose in my suffering
Purpose 1 – So that people can see our response to suffering and come to know God.
My problem with this was that, as far as I was aware, my suffering was unseen. I was severely unwell for about 6 years, nearly 3 of which I was housebound for. If this is the primary purpose for suffering, it rendered mine purposeless.
Video: Purpose of Suffering Unseen
If I endure suffering faithfully with no one to see it, does it still glorify God?
Our audience is much wider than we can see or know. When you respond to your circumstances – for good or bad – you are witnessing to the angels and demons and all the forces in the heavenly realms. You are proving to them that your God is worth worshipping for who He is – when he gives, and when he takes away. You are revealing the mystery of salvation, redemption, and the grace of God to hosts beyond what you can imagine.
“Something happens…something supernatural…something powerful…something that touches both time and eternity…when a believer gives praise to Christ in the midst of trouble and adversity. People notice, and wonder. Angels observe, and worship. Demons flee from the brilliance. But more than all of these things, the name of God gains honor and glory. Oh, my friend, it isn’t easy. It certainly isn’t natural. It may often come through tears. But, if by faith you will offer a sacrifice of praise to God in the midst of your pain today, the resulting radiance will shine further than you could begin to imagine” (Joni Eareckson Tada 31 Days Toward Overcoming Adversity – Day 14).