One Way God Uses Our Suffering
March 02, 2020
by Dr. J. Vernon McGee
In this month’s free featured booklet, Dr. McGee explores the question “why do God’s children suffer?” and gives us seven reasons why we suffer and four benefits that suffering brings when we let God do His work in us. To encourage you today, here is a peek at one of those benefits.
There is joy in the Christian life—and peace—and healing. I know, I’ve experienced all three. But it is also true that God’s children will suffer. We can’t escape it. Even the Lord Jesus Himself told His own they would have tribulation. (See John 16:33.)
But even in our suffering, God wants us to be fruitful Christians. He wants us to grow up. He wants to get us off baby formula and out of the spiritual nursery and get us going. He wants to make us men and women of conviction and courage, stamina and strength. And sometimes that lesson is best learned by suffering.
I was privileged to know the poet, Martha Snell Nicholson, and to be her pastor. She suffered terrible pain whenever her body was touched, so much so she couldn’t leave her home. Well, she wanted to be baptized by immersion. So, we went to her home and as I baptized her, lowering her into a bathtub filled with water, she screamed out in pain. It was horrible. But if you read any of her poetry, you’d never dream that she suffered so. It was God’s beautiful discipline working in her in order to bless others.
The greatest pulpits are not in churches; they are on beds of pain. Many wonderful saints of God cannot attend church services. I learned that over the years of radio ministry. Many, many people are bedfast, but by faith they are living for God. I know one woman who writes a volume of letters every month to encourage missionaries on the field, and she is lying on a bed in constant pain. What a message she sends!
How do you act when you suffer?
You can respond to the Lord’s chastening in a number of ways. You can despise it. You can ignore it by not accepting that God is trying to get a message to you. You can accept it like a brute beast accepts pain. “Well, it’s just my luck.” My friend, if you are a child of God, you haven’t had hard luck. God is trying to tell you something. Hebrews 12:5 says, “Do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.”
You can also be a crybaby. “Why did God let this happen to me?” You can become a super-pious saint and become a martyr. “Well, this is my cross and I’ll bear it,” when all the time you wrestle with an inner rebellion going on. Oh, my friend, that is not what God wants you to do. Listen to Him:
Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. -Hebrews 12:11
In the moment, no suffering is pleasant. If you want to know the truth, when I’m suffering, I scream at the top of my voice. Of course, it is not joyous—but it’s just for a brief moment.
A preacher in the south once asked for favorite Scripture verses. One deacon got up and said, “My favorite verse is, ‘And it came to pass.’” Everyone looked puzzled. The preacher asked, “What do you mean your favorite verse is, ‘And it came to pass’?” “Well,” he said, “when trouble comes to me, I just turn to where it says, ‘It came to pass,’ and I thank the Lord it came to pass and it didn’t come to stay.”
This may not be a correct interpretation of that verse, but I tell you, God’s Word teaches us a marvelous truth. “No chastening seems to be joyful for the present”—it’s terrible. Don’t say you are a martyr and you are going to bear it. Say, “I’m going to get out of this as quickly as I can.”
When I had surgery for cancer, I asked everybody to pray for me. A woman wrote, “Now, Dr. McGee, you are ready to go so I am going to pray the Lord takes you home.” I wrote a reply in a hurry, “Don’t you pray that prayer. This is between the Lord and me, and you let Him handle it.” I wanted to be cured of cancer. I was prepared to learn the lesson God had for me, but I wanted to live.
Don’t be passive about what God is doing. Ask Him to show you what He wants to accomplish in your life through this season of suffering. And grab hold of it by faith.
Truths to remind yourself when you’re hurting:
- God promises He’s not going to leave you. (Hebrews 13:5)
- He will redeem this situation for good. (Romans 8:28)
- He’s working a bigger plan. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
- Don’t take your view of life only from what you can see. (Hebrews 11:1)
- Instead, continue to talk to Him (Psalm 55:22). Continue to wait on Him (Psalm 37:7). And in the meantime, believe that God is not only better than your fears, He’s also better than your hopes (Ephesians 3:20).