IS THIS SUFFERING WASTED?
Among life's most baffling problems, there are times when none is more perplexing than that of suffering. "Why should this have come to me?" is so often asked. Then, after much anxiety and questioning one still does not have the answer to the "Why?" From thence we turn to the question of "What?" If I cannot know "why," then what use shall I make of it? Surely, in a world of order, governed by a God of love, there must be some use which suffering may serve. It cannot be that God allows suffering with no purpose to be accomplished by it. Surely my pain, whether mental, or physical, or in the deep recesses of conscience, is not to be wasted.
KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. For the past two months I have spent much time with "a perfect and upright man, a man that feared God and turned away from evil." This man had been brought to the brink of death as he drank the full of calamity and physical suffering. Being a man who feared God and enjoyed all the bounty of this life, he could not understand why he should be called to suffer as he did. In my association with him I learned much about suffering. Among other things I learned something of the use to be made of it. The man's name is Job. Every sufferer should meet and become acquainted with him.
Through suffering Job came to know God as he had never known Him before. At times he thought God was cruelto him; at other times he would conclude there was no moral government in the universe -- God just did not care. But throughout his experi- ence his faith was deepening and expanding. Finally Job was able to say, "I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" Job 42:;5.
SUFFERING HUMBLES US. Job was humbled by his experience. He had learned to trust when he could not see. He came to realize his own ignorance of God's great and mysterious universe. He came also to know God and of His concern for the sufferer as he could never have learned except through experience. He now knew what it was to walk by faith and not by sight.
Here is one of the greatest uses of suffering. To the man who will trust it brings a knowledge and understanding of God which can be acquired in no other way - know- ledge by experience. God does care. He was intensely interested in Job from the first, and so in us. He is a God of purpose and of order, as revealed throughout His universe. And even though man suffers, God is not indifferent, but uses the suffering to bring man closer to Himself. Job came to know God, not as a tyrant, but as man's friend. So may you and I.
COMFORT OF OTHERS. Suffering may be used to teach one a deeper sympathy and compassion for others. It should teach us to share the experiences of another, to encourage and inspire as we could not have done before our own experience. Though Paul was writing of Christians suffering for the cause of Christ, his statement my serve in any suffering: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted" 2 Cor. 1:3,4.
Through one's own experience is suffering, and the comfort he receives from God, he is able to comfort as can no one who has not himself experienced such affliction and such comfort. He has learned through experience, and can now teach and help through that which he knows. Let the sufferer make this use of his suffering.
PATIENCE AND HOPE. Another great use of suffering as presented in the Scripture is that of the development of patience and hope. Paul rejoiced in hope of the glory of God, but he did not stop there. "We also rejoice in our tribulations," he continues, "knowing that tribulation worketh steadfastness; and steadfastness, approvedness; and approvedness, hope; and hope putteth not to shame" Rom. 5:3-5. As one overcomes wave after wave of tribulation, adversity, suffering and pain, he grows stronger in his own steadfastness, and his hope flashes more gloriously.
Trials, and also pain or suffering, may become tests of faith. James writes, "Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold trials; knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience" Jas. 1:2,3.
Patience is not a fatalistic submission to "come what may"; but it is a steadfast enduring, waiting, letting the Lord work out the end. James himself so explains it: "Behold, we call them blessed that endured: ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, how that the Lord is full of pity, and merciful" Jas. 5:11. Job was doubly rich at the end of his experience: he had not only his abundance of material wealth, but a richness of faith and knowledge of God.
Then there is that suffering which is vicarious: suffering on behalf of and for another. Christ's sufferings were such. So may your suffering be used as the means of bringing Christ and the Spirit of the Christ to the heart and life of another. Your own faith and steadfastness may teach by example where one will not listen by the ear.
Shall my suffering be wasted? By no means! "We know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose" Rom. 8:28. Let God use suffering in the life of us all as a means of bringing us to know Him as never before. Let Him use it to teach us faith, humility, steadfast- ness, hope. Through it let us learn that we can trust when we cannot know; we can walk when we cannot see. Faith is greater than sight, and loving trust than scientific knowledge. Let us thank God for His providential use of suffering, as He suses it to make heaven's glory more brilliant, and earth's sojourn one of humble trust.
By Homer Hailey
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