What is the role of struggle and suffering in human life? How often do we pray that God saves us from a particular struggle and suffering only to find out that we go exactly through this what we want to avoid? The doctor tells you bad news about your chances to have a child. Your father’s health is deteriorating. You lost a loved one unexpectedly.
We plead and pray that we do not need to go through this struggle, that we preserve our job, and that our loved one does not get ill. No, we do not want to struggle with infertility, illness, rejection, betrayal, disappointment, loss and sorrow after sorrow. We crave and long that God saves us from all this. Sometimes he does but more often, He does not.
The role of struggle and suffering in the earthly life
Unfortunately, most of our years are packed with suffering, struggles and hard work. The mark, the inevitable and inseparable part of the earthly life, is struggling in one form or another. It is the exposure of painful, chaotic or tragic things. In Psalm 90 Moses laments about the brevity and hardships of life and prays for special wisdom in numbering our days.
“Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures, yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:12)
The role of struggle and suffering in God’s design
However, it is most often through struggle that we change and experience transformation. Not avoiding the things we want to avoid but passing through them and being transformed in the process is the way God chooses most often to go in His dealings with us.
God strikes and through striking he brings healing. (Isaiah 19:22, Job 36:15) Not avoiding death but going through death is God‘s design to experience resurrection.
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“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24-25)
God’s work in the blazing furnace of suffering
Yes, often God will allow that we are thrown in the blazing furnace as he did with the three friends of Daniel – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego ( Daniel 3). Because exactly there is where His salvation and deliverance happens. God comes in the furnace and does His work. This is what happened because of God’s presence to the three friends in the furnace:
- They could move and walk freely around in the fire, untied and unharmed in the presence of God! ( Daniel 3:25)
- The fire had no destroying and harmful effect on them and this was obvious for everybody. They came out of the furnace without damage, nor was a hair of their heads singed and even there was no smell of fire on them! How amazing is that? (Daniel 3:27)
- The king promoted them after the furnace and God has been glorified! (Daniel 3:29-30)
What God did for the three friends, He is doing for us too. He saves us through the ordeal, in the ordeal. His loving Presence, grace and redeeming power are more than enough not only to carry us through but also to transform us and free us internally.
God’s idea and purpose of salvation through struggle
God’s salvation is quite different from the ideas we have on how to be saved. When God saves and delivers us, we can expect the following:
- Freedom and internal healing. Christ is always leading us in freedom and wholeness. This can be the freedom of controlling desires, idols, destructive mindsets, false beliefs, soul traumas, and wounds.
- No harmful or destructive effect on our souls and lives! Yes, our flesh and soul may be wounded, but God will take care of these wounds and they will not destroy us. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
- Perfected faith. To be developed and matured, our faith will be tested. Suffering and struggle is a primary way of testing our faith. (1 Peter 4:12)
- Spiritual growth and maturity. The more we overcome things with God, things that we fear and want to avoid, the more mature we become and the character of Christ can be fully displayed in us.
- Perfected testimony displaying God‘s glory. Our testimony also grows with each struggle as well as the impact we have on the world. We have the chance to experience first-hand new levels and ways of God’s manifold grace, power, and love. We get to know Him better in deeper ways.
In short, we are becoming fruitful in the Lord. We start to exhibit the fruits of Christ’s redemptive and transformative work in our lives.
Overcoming in our struggles by leaning on God‘s love
We should let go of the idea that God saves us from something only by preventing it to happen. Instead, let’s embrace His ways and the recurring pattern in the Bible that more often God saves is through our suffering and struggles. Nevertheless, we can still have comfort and complete hope and assurance:
- By learning to trust God as the Redeemer of all things, including suffering.
- By leaning on His constant love, which transcends life and its struggles.
His love surrounds us and indwells us by His Holy Spirit. It is the knowing and experiencing of His love and His salvation that affects most powerfully the reality of the believer. His love will make things right and will preserve us forever by not allowing nothing in this life to destroy us.
What is your idea of God’s salvation? How did God save you through a trial? Come share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!
8 Replies to “The Role of Struggle and Suffering in God’s Design for Transformation”
I’ve never really thought about how the fiery furnace is a promise of how God will protect us through our fiery trials .
Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I am glad that the post showed you a new perspective!
Excellent! It is such a shame somewhere along the way this message has been lost on Christianity. We’ve come to relate our struggles to a failure of faith which led us to begin suffering in silence and a whole generation of faithful Christians who become isolated from the very community God gives us to help us through hard times. Blessings, to you!
Thank you so much, Liz! Yes, unfortunately as believers we still struggle to accept that struggle and suffering is a vital part of the life of faith. It is so comforting to know that we are never meant to suffer alone and that God has ways to redeem our suffering and bring something good out of it.
Such beautiful, honest points. I can’t say suffering is the vehicle I would choose for the journey of becoming closer to Christ, but it sure is a reliable vehicle. Thanks for these thoughts!
Thank you so much, Bethany! Yes, nobody of us would choose struggle and suffering but we can find comfort and hope knowing that in God’s hands everything would work out for good.