During our walk through Psalm 119:33-40, we discovered many things. If you haven’t watched or read Asking God (Week Two), I encourage you to check it out. One particularly challenging idea was that though it is God’s ultimate plan to take away sickness and reproach from his people (He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.), the removal of pain and suffering is not always his temporal plan.
Learning through Pain
God is a teacher. It is in his nature to teach and instruct us. Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.”
The idea that salvation from pain and suffering not always being God’s temporal plan is married to his teaching character in the reality that God uses hardship to teach us faithfulness and to mature us.
“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
Paul could communicate this difficult truth to the Romans with complete assurance and hope because he knew that the Spirit of Christ—the same Christ who endured pain and persecution to save him—was now at work within him, using pain and persecution to perfect him.
This reality of the indwelling Spirit means that we don’t (and will never) face hardship alone. We never need to face hardship from a place of self-strength. Why? Because we can operate in the same power as Paul did:
“And He [God] has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
God strengthens us. This eliminates all boasting and all self reliance because it is our King working within us, working with us, to execute the spread of his kingdom.
In Proverbs 30:8-9, we saw that another king, King Solomon, asked God for ideal circumstances in order to live rightly:
Keep deception and lies far from me,
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is my portion,
That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or that I not be in want and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
Conversely, Paul lived by the opposite mentality:
“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” Philippians 4:11-12
Paul had learned the secret that Solomon hadn’t been privy to. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
Solomon had asked for a specific set of circumstances in order to more easily follow God, but through Christ, God himself now dwells within us. His Spirit enables us to obey, to live content and righteous lives, whether the outside circumstances are conducive to an easy walk or not.
Even more than that, God actually uses those adverse conditions (the pain, the sickness, the reproach), to mold us into the image of our King.The idea that salvation from pain and suffering not always being God's temporal plan is married to his teaching character in the reality that God uses hardship to teach us faithfulness and to mature us. Click To Tweet
How has God used the difficult situations in your life to draw you closer to him? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.