“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” -Genesis 50:20
Joseph was sold into slavery, slandered by Potiphar’s wife, and imprisoned, yet he says, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” God had a plan, and a purpose. They meant it for evil, God meant it for good. It is stories like these that affirm the total sovereignty of God, and that the sun is shining, even behind the darkest clouds in our lives.
The cross doesn’t spare us from a cross. All of the apostles, except one, were martyred terribly. Some on crosses. If anything, the cross promises us a cross. That’s why our Lord said,
“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
The Christian life is filled with trials of various kinds. This pilgrimage has obstacles. Without the Holy Spirit, and the preservation of God’s people, these obstacles would annihilate our faith. But by faith in Christ, these obstacles build our faith. The deepest joys of the Christian life, are found in the deepest valleys.
Could God prevent our suffering? Yes. Does He always? No. So, the question becomes, why? Why do these things happen to Christians, and why doesn’t God intervene always to spare His people of suffering? I want to give you a few reasons.
- Christians go through trials, to make them more like Jesus
If there was ever a model of the righteous suffering, it is our Lord Jesus Christ. The only sinless human being that ever lived. When the question is posed, “Why do the righteous suffer?” We have to respond by saying, “The righteous only suffered once.”
As Jesus was in the wilderness to be tempted, satan uses interesting tactics, that we still see today. He attempted to get our Lord to avoid the path of suffering, and live a life of comfort, and riches.
“And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to be turned to bread.”
So, the devil played to Jesus’ hunger first.
“Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you”
Next, the devil plays to Jesus personal well-being.
“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give to you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
Lastly, he offered riches, and power.
Do you see? The devil offers comfort and riches. The devil wanted our Lord to avoid suffering. The devil doesn’t come with red horns, and a pitchfork. He comes with all of your wildest dreams.
God uses our suffering to make us more like Jesus, who did not avoid the cross, but embraced it. We should do the same.
2. Christians suffer, to draw them closer to Jesus
“We do not choose suffering simply because we are told to, but because the one who tells us to describes it as the path to everlasting joy.” -John Piper
Suffering is the path to joy. Although, this is counterintuitive, it is true. To avoid suffering, is to avoid joy. When you are stripped of everything that you trust, that is not Jesus, you find a nearness that you cannot achieve apart from suffering. When every roadblock between you and the Lord is removed by trials, you experience Him on a level that prosperity cannot deliver. We should rejoice at the gifts of God, but we should also rejoice and say with Job, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” It reminds me of the famous quote that many have said,
“You never know Jesus is all that you need, until Jesus is all that you have.”
3. God plans Christian suffering, in order to rescue them
His ways are higher than our ways. One of those ways that are higher, is that He ordains Christian suffering, in order to rescue them.
The cross of Jesus Christ was not plan B, it was the plan all along. From the fall, to the cross, to the new earth, God’s predestined plan is working itself out. We see that He plans our pain, and our redemption.
We see this in our personal lives. We can all point back to times in which we fall, and He rescues us. We can all point back to our lowest seasons in life, and see how God rescues us. It is an incomprehensible thing, that God plans our pain, and gives Himself as the remedy. It doesn’t mean it’s easy. And we lean on Him, and one another in those seasons.
I’ll leave you with a verse that has strengthened me, and I pray it strengthens you as you walk through trials in this life,
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” -1 Peter 4:12-13