In Psalm 119, there is an unexpected blessing for which the psalmist gave thanks. He said in the 71st verse, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes.” Could you see yourself writing this line? Most of us would never welcome hardships as a teaching method, so we are not likely to ask God to send us pain in order to teach us a lesson. It is only after the pain is endured and has yielded the benefit of bringing us closer to the Lord that we appreciate it.
This thought is expressed in Hebrews 12 regarding chastisement. The writer said chastisement is always grievous, but it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness. Even when chastisement is not the issue, suffering has great benefits for the soul because it teaches us to pray and depend on God. The Bible never tells us to ask God that we would never suffer and neither does it promise we will not. God knows how to bless in mysterious ways and this is the realization of the psalmist after considering his problems.
While preparing this article, I found another interesting perspective on suffering. J.R. Illingsworth wrote: ”The earliest form of trouble is for most of us physical pain, and our instinctive tendency is to view pain as an unmitigated evil. But such a view of pain is not in accordance with the facts of life. Pain is beyond question the great educator of the soul. Pain makes men real. It indurates their character. It endows them with spiritual insight. But, beyond all this, pain invests a man with a mysterious attractiveness for others. There is a heroism in the very fact of suffering which lifts the sufferer above us, and makes us feel that he is moving in a realm of being to us unknown, till our sympathy is hushed into something of awe-struck admiration, and from the blending of sympathy with awe comes love.”
I thought this was a truly sublime thought. Think of those you have seen endure pain for long periods of time. Do you admire them for their courage to suffer without complaint? Isn’t there something about them that causes you to lift them up as a model you think you could never attain?
I still remember a lady that passed away more than fifty years ago from cancer. My dad would go to visit her and many times I went along somewhat reluctantly because I did not like those kinds of visits. She suffered terribly, and yet her faith was firmly in God and she never complained that God had been unfair to her. What caused me to remember her when there are so many in my dad’s ministry I have forgotten? Pain etched her memory in my mind. Her ability to endure it left an indelible impression. Did this lady know her pain was for this purpose? She probably never imagined it. But, such things God knows. Blessings do not always seem to be blessings until they have yielded the peaceable fruits of righteousness.
Learn to bless God in the bad times as well as the good. Either way, God works all things for your good. Patient endurance of suffering may very well be the work that attends your entrance into heaven and causes others to rejoice with thanksgiving to God.
Pastor V. Mark Smith