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5 Greatest Lessons You Can Learn From Suffering

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Are you in a season of suffering? Personally, I am not a fan of the whole concept, but I am starting to understand why God allows it.

Truthfully, my flesh doesn’t want to understand it at all, but my heart calls me to dig deeper.

You see, for many years I thought God was cruel and mean. Since I have experienced some emotional healing, I now see God more like a loving Father.

However, sometimes loving fathers allow their children to suffer. It seems harsh, but I have learned real love means doing what is best for the child long term. Even if it hurts.

What is a little hard to swallow is that God wants us to follow after Jesus’ example. Yikes!! He suffered a lot. 

Although I am still processing what this looks like in everyday life, I can clearly see the overall idea. Life ain’t gonna be easy.

Fortunately, there is some good news to go with the pain. God allows our suffering so that one day He can be glorified in multiple ways if we will just trust Him.

In this post, I am going to share the greatest lessons you can learn from suffering. Perhaps it will help you see the light at the end of the tunnel and give you hope in your darkest hour.  

Related: How to Raise a Smart Child Who is Wise

Yellow flowers growing out of cement with a text overlay about suffering

5 Greatest Lessons You Can Learn From Suffering

1. Suffering draws us closer to God

How many of you are on your knees talking to God daily when life is pretty good? Perhaps your life is not perfect, but it is not a “code blue” status. Until the bottom falls out.

Suddenly, a crisis comes along, and the tables turn. God becomes important. You start begging Him to do something and change the circumstances–to remove the suffering. However, God sees it as an opportunity to draw us to Him.

When we draw closer to Him, we grow and become more like Jesus. However, it takes a little pain to prompt us.

Personally, I didn’t learn how to pray intensely until I hit a crisis in my own life. I had nowhere to turn but to God. And He answered through prayer. I am so grateful I ran to Him instead of away from Him.

Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Related: Can God Use a Horrible Failure or Loss?

 

2. Suffering opens doors to share Christ

How did you come to Christ? I bet it wasn’t because you were having a grand ol’ time! Most likely, there was a point of crisis or need that made you bend your knee to the One greater than you. In fact, you were probably broken.

Fortunately, our brokenness is the very thing that creates a beautiful testimony and, by the way, the greatest way to share Christ.

No one can argue with your testimony, discount it, or deny a personal experience. It is your unique story about how God came down and rescued you from your mess.

If you haven’t thought about your testimony, this is a good time to write it down. God wants to use it for His glory.

2 Timothy 4:5  says, “But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.” NLT

Related: Family Problems: How to Deal with Your Family Rift

 

3. Suffering refines us.

God is more concerned with our character than our comfort. He wants to make us reflect Jesus. And that doesn’t come naturally. To put it bluntly, we are naturally selfish and self-absorbed creatures full of pride. Basically, we don’t think we need Him.

When we suffer pain, it draws out our sinful behavior. We have to admit we need help and humbly submit to God’s way instead of our own way. Sadly, some people are stubborn and may need more “field trips” than others. Do you recall the Israelites going around the mountain for forty years? Yep, field trip.

Malachi 3: 3-4 says, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years. NIV

Related: How to Not Lose Faith: 7 People Who Were One Hot Mess

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4. Suffering gives us strength.

I was born a natural wimp. Let’s just say sports and I were never great friends. I would rather read books about other people’s courageous adventures while I am at home in my bed curled up in my blankets. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help develop strength.

I have found that in my suffering, I have developed muscles of faith I never knew I had. In fact, trusting God has helped me to accomplish things I could never do in the natural.

You see, strength comes from doing. Even failing is a part of that process.

Honestly, I think failure is a better teacher than success. There are so many more lessons to be learned when we don’t get things right because, generally, we are paying more attention to what happened. Or didn’t happen…We are more malleable for the potter to form us as He wishes.

1 Peter 5:10 says, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” NIV

Related: 7 LifeChanging Ways to Stop People Pleasing

 

5. Suffering gives others hope.

I can think of countless testimonies where God has intervened in miraculous ways through suffering. Perhaps, it wasn’t always the perfect outcome, but God made Himself known throughout the trial.

When I am down, that is the first thing I do. I look at how others have made it through their crisis. I like reading stories of triumph, heroes that have overcome against all the odds, or how ordinary people cope with the hardest of circumstances.

Most of all, I enjoy reading quotes from famous people who have suffered. I don’t feel so alone when I hear what they have been through. Talking about our pain gives hope to others who are a few steps behind.

Romans 5:3-4 says, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” NIV

Related: Feeling Discouraged: Hope in the Light

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Quotes From Famous Christian Leaders Who Have Suffered

Here are some inspirational quotes from other Christian leaders who know about suffering. I think you will find them quite revealing.

Suffering has no respecter of persons. In fact, most people who are in ministry have suffered greatly. Once you read the quotes, you will see what I mean.

“Pain removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.”~ C.S. Lewis

“I am not a theologian or a scholar, but I am very aware of the fact that pain is necessary to all of us. In my own life, I think I can honestly say that out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God.”~ Elizabeth Elliot

“No matter what precautions we take, no matter how well we have put together a good life, no matter how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy, comfortable with friends and family, and successful with our career — something will inevitably ruin it.”~ Tim Keller

“When you suffer and lose, that does not mean you are being disobedient to God. In fact, it might mean you’re right in the center of His will. The path of obedience is often marked by times of suffering and loss.”~ Chuck Swindoll

“It may be difficult to understand why a test comes our way, but we must never forget that the test is accomplishing refining and purification.”~ Billy Graham

“Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world. So long as you can sweeten another’s pain, life is not in vain.”~ Helen Keller

“They gave our Master a crown of thorns. Why do we hope for a crown of roses?”~ Martin Luther

“I assure you that some of the most awesome things God has ever done for me have come out of the most awful things I’d done to myself.”~ Beth Moore

In closing, remember God works through suffering because He has our attention. Sometimes that is the only way we will stop and evaluate the direction of our life or the life of our family. Before you start down an angry path, ask God what He is doing and then try to join His plan.

It will make it much easier if you are both rowing in the same direction, even if it feels like you are rowing toward a waterfall. As long as God is in the boat, you will never drown.

 

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Julie Plagens

20 Comments

  1. Laurel and Iron on April 29, 2019 at 8:58 am

    Great post! I truly feel like suffering brings us lessons.

    Lauren | https://laurelandiron.com

    • Julie Plagens on July 8, 2019 at 3:11 am

      Yeah, I don’t enjoy the pain but do like the growth. God is still good even in the bad. Thanks for your comments.

  2. Laura @ Relationship Helpers on April 29, 2019 at 6:10 am

    Elizabeth Elliot was right, pain is necessary. We don’t get out of life without it. For many we let it divide and isolate, for others it makes us more apt to relate to fellow sufferers. This is a great blog post on pain. It’s a great reminder and perspective shift.

    • Julie Plagens on July 8, 2019 at 3:09 am

      Laura, thanks so much for your comments. I do find that suffering is a difficult pill to swallow. I’m still not a fan of the whole thing, but I’m learning to trust God more in my pain.

  3. Emily J. M. (@CalledtoWatch) on April 28, 2019 at 10:28 pm

    Thanks for being willing to dig deep into such a complex topic!

    • Julie Plagens on July 8, 2019 at 3:07 am

      Emily, it was a great encouragement to write about this. In fact, I go back and read it when I’m feeling down. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Natalie E on April 28, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    This is super inspirational. I love the elements of faith throughout the post. I don’t think God allows us to suffer, but rather allows us to come to Him when we are so that we can get through it! I think its just a part of life that without suffering there would be no compassion, and He doesn’t cause it, but rather wants us to seek Him and He helps us get through! 🙂

    Natalie
    http://www.thegracereal.com

    • Julie Plagens on April 28, 2019 at 8:25 pm

      Natalie, thanks for your comment. I do know if God allows suffering, but not sure if He causes it. It seems that the story of Job is a direct example of God telling Satan to do whatever He wants to Job except for death. Is that “allow” or “cause”? I don’t know. But I know that in either case, God uses pain to draw us back to Him. Hard thing to work through, huh?

  5. Wander Women Abroad on April 28, 2019 at 10:51 am

    What inspirational words1 Suffering is something everyone experiences in life and it is in those moments of suffering where we start to get a glimpse at our individual truths

    • Julie Plagens on April 28, 2019 at 8:17 pm

      Wander woman (love the name), thanks for your comment. Yes, we sure can find truth in suffering. The greatest Truth is Jesus!

  6. Lambam on April 28, 2019 at 4:13 am

    What an amazing and exceptional post! I absolutely agree with what you put up in this post . No one love trials /tribulations and from my experience in life , It actually prepares us for greater purpose ahead of us in our lives . I love this post and I want to appreciate God on your lives . This pose has to go viral so a lot can understand that God is a good father . He won’t let us pass through what can kill us . Never .

    • Julie Plagens on April 28, 2019 at 8:15 pm

      Lambam, thank you for your thoughtful insights. I am just now learning about God’s love and what it entails. I think so many people get tripped up on how a good God allows pain, but then they forget that real love means free will. (Control is not love, therefore he would never make up puppets). Free will means pain. Unfortunately, some pain is not our fault. We have to deal with the fallout though. And that is where He shines best.

  7. Madi Rowan on April 27, 2019 at 11:04 pm

    What an amazing read! I agree with everything you said! Periods of suffering definitely happen throughout the course of life. But no doubt, suffering results in a great deal of learning, patience, & strength.

    -madi xo | https://www.everydaywithmadirae.com

    • Julie Plagens on April 28, 2019 at 8:05 pm

      Suffering is definitely not on my list of things I want to do, but I can say I have learned a lot. Mostly, how much we need Jesus.

  8. Carolina Frederick on April 27, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    I think we go through trials and tribulations because we live in a fallen world and we just have to deal with the consequences of that. I believe God is a loving Father that will never want to see His kids suffer. His love for us is bigger than the love we have for our kids or our parents. That’s why I know that is never God’s will for us to suffer in order to grow, learn and mature. We have the Word of God to help us with that. I completely agree with the lessons we can learn from our sufferings because God uses everything for our good. Great post!

    • Julie Plagens on April 28, 2019 at 8:04 pm

      Caroline, thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. Yes, we definitely do suffer consequences because we live in a fallen world. I can say as a parent that I have stepped back and let my kids follow through with their own way only to see that they needed a little pain for growth. God is love, but sometimes it is tough love.

  9. Anne Mackie Morelli on April 27, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    Julie, what a great reminder that as Christ followers we must expect suffering and that through suffering Christ will be with us, providing and protecting us, as we are refined and transformed. Most people would do almost anything to avoid suffering altogether, but when we call ourselves believers we need to look at suffering through a different lens.

    • Julie Plagens on April 28, 2019 at 7:56 pm

      Anne, it is amazing how God’s economy is so different from the world. He who loses his life shall find it. such a deep meaning in that verse. Thanks for your comment.

  10. DONNA MILLER on April 27, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    What a beautiful post! I completely have experienced drawing closer to my Jesus more during suffering than in good times. AND He has stepped in miraculously many times. It does make me quick and joyful to share and also brings others hope. I also look to others for their experience through things I haven’t gone through before, and I find lots of hope in Jesus when I do that. ❤

    • Julie Plagens on April 28, 2019 at 7:52 pm

      Donna, thank you so much for your sweet remarks. I am so glad you have a good understanding of suffering. God does step in miraculous ways when we think all is lost. Many blessings to you.

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