We all face suffering in some way, shape or form. As a result, many of us long to know why God allows grief and hardship into our lives. In times of great distress, we often want to know that our suffering matters to God and that He cares about our pain. We also wonder in these dark times how God relates to human pain, injury, violence and involuntary suffering. When it comes to suffering, there are some who draw near to God and there are others who reject Him. It’s important that we recognize that our suffering doesn’t happen without purpose. This doesn’t mean that the Bible doesn’t tell us how to think about our suffering now, it actually equips us. If you’re wondering if suffering builds character, the answer in short is yes.
One of the ways suffering builds character is because it can change who we are in ways we never imagined. God has the incredibility ability to restore and make all things new. When we draw to Him in our suffering, He restores us to a right relationship with Him through the gift of forgiveness and justification. He is able to restore our relationships with others. He can also restores days and years that have been lost to the effects of sin (Joel 2:25). This is great evidence of the powerful nature of God’s mercy. Not only can He renew a life and redeem its future, but He can also redeem its past. In the Bible, we see God’s power of restoration countless times. When Jacob was finally reunited with his lost son, Joseph, he described the grief-filled days of his life as “few and evil” (Genesis 47:9). But in his last days, through God’s mercy, Jacob was able to look back on his life and see that God has been his shepherd all along and that he had been redeemed from the evil that once marked his life.
When we suffer, God protects us. God cares for those who love Him. He can protect you from anything that could jeopardize your faith and hope in everlasting life. When we are suffering, God really wants to protect us. God warns us against ways of life that threaten our health and happiness. There are many promises and examples of physical protection in the Word of God, both from the Old Testament and New Testament. God’s protection was evident in Job’s life. Even though Job suffered through many trials as a result of the attacks of Satan, it was God who drew the line in the sand, over which Satan could not cross. Satan was limited to do exactly what God allowed him to do, and nothing more. Even though all the misery and afflictions Job endured, God was protecting him from greater harm.
Many times, God uses situations and difficulties to get our attention and stimulate our thirst for Him. What appears to be a painful or desperate situation is often His invitation to draw near. Even our greatest failures and sins can leads us to Christ, as we seek forgiveness from the Father. With an attitude of humble repentance, we can enter into a more intimate relationship with Him. However, if we continue living in rebellion and are unwilling to confess and repent, He will not reveal more of Himself to us. Sin always blocks our ability to know the Lord. Don’t allow suffering, adversity or failure to pull you away from God. When distance is placed between you and Jesus, Satan will misuse the very situations that the Lord can utilize to draw you to Him. Don’t let the enemy win the battle.
When we are suffering, God has the power to free us from our pain. But we only come to God in sincerity of faith if our hearts have been “sprinkled clean” (Hebrews 10:22). The word “sprinkle” speaks of the purging of our hearts from an evil conscience. Guilt is gone. In Christ, the believer’s conscience has already been cleansed of guilt. When a sinner comes to Jesus and receives salvation, guilt is removed. Even if feelings of guilt remain, the actual legal guilt is gone because in the body of His Son, God judged the sin that caused our guilt. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Sometimes we as believers still experience guilty feelings over our past because we do not fully realize the extent of our cleansing. Therefore, we must continually speak the truth of the Gospel to ourselves and to one another, so that we will learn to live in the freedom that already belongs to us in Christ.
Christ, the eternal son of God in whom the fullness of God dwells, lived on earth as a human being and endured hunger, thirst, temptation, shame, persecution, nakedness, bereavement, betrayal, mockery, injustice and death. When you ask how much God cares about the problem of suffering, you can point to the cross and say, “That much.” Jesus experienced the same suffering as many people do today who are feeling isolated from God’s favor and love. God is personally involved in our pain and suffering. Christ was suffering not for His sins but ours. The Bible says Christ died to pay the price for our sins, and that those who believe in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead will be saved (Romans 10:9-10). This is not a reward but a gift to all that put their trust in Him.
Suffering draws us close to the One who we can draw great strength from and this helps build character. When we bow humbly before God we are exactly where He wants us to be and where we need to be – powerless to help ourselves and dependent on Him. The Bible tells us “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). This is an amazing promise. As we open ourselves up to the Lord, He opens up to us. If we come to Him in our suffering – in submission, brokenness, and repentance – He rushes in with forgiveness, love and faithfulness. There is no room for self-sufficiency or self-protection in this interaction. Only in the humility of helplessness will we discover the sufficiency of His presence.