Last weekend, a close friend from New Zealand just came. He invited us to his house for home bible study with a pastor sharing his journey in New Zealand as well. It was all good; I think the people who were with us ended giving their life to Christ afterward.
Not just a few hours when I arrived home, a friend who just left a message on my Facebook account. He was apologizing because he felt he sinned against me. But I tried to recall the days I spent time with this person but there wasn't any except for leaving the group without notice.
"Oh, it was okay. How are you?" I replied. He told me he was almost in death a few days ago when he attempted to kill himself and he was just recovering from it.
Then he recalled the days we were together as a group. How we laugh together and pray for one another. I think he misses those days. "Well, everyone's transitioned to their new season in life. Five of them married already, two of them have their first child already, and others left the country to work abroad, and me? I'm still here in the Philippines and transferred to a newly planted church in Antipolo, and, will start praying and seeking God for finding a wife in the next three years. Hahaha!" I replied.
"Um, that's great. I envy all of you because your prayers are being answered by your God." He told me.
"I've been earnestly praying to God to remove me from this suffering but I didn't get any answer. I have this financial problem that only happened the time I surrender my life to Christ. I think my life was great without God so I decided to backslide." He added.
I sympathize with him. When I became a Christian, I thought life will become easy, I will become happier and God will going to bless me exponentially. Sounds prosperity gospel isn't it?
But I was wrong. The year 2010, I graduated, I was 19 years old back then when I had my first job. I lost myself in the process. The year 2012 I got accepted to work for a small firm. Everything was great, my colleagues like me, my boss likes me but after the day I joined a church again, everything has changed.
My boss frequently mocks my work. Some of my colleagues tempted me to sin, there was one moment that they even hired a prostitute and they undressed her to dance in front me, but I ran. They tried to lock me in the room with that woman, but I hid somewhere.
Throughout the years, I faced a constant battle with sin and temptation. It wasn't easy for a Christian to work in the corporate world with the unbelievers but thank God, I survived and learned a lot.
"Remember the life of Job? He was with God, God is with him but he lost everything and yet he was so faithful to God that even he lost everything including his family, it didn't cause him to backslide from God. And because of that God blessed him more because he endured." I told him.
That's what awaits for a Christian. God doesn't promise us to give us a storm free life rather he will give us a storm proof life.
And how then can our life become a storm proof? By sharpening it through constant battle, trials, and suffering. That how God shapes us until we are ready for the greatness he prepared for us.
I like how Charles Stanley put it in his own words when he wrote in his book Living the Extraordinary Life he said that "..nothing can touch your life apart from the permissive will of God."
Does it mean God allow me to suffer?
Illness, wars, financial troubles, losing someone, difficult jobs, heartbreaks, and difficult marriage - doesn't God wants me to be happy? Why would a good God allows suffering? Why He just can't end suffering if He is good and powerful?
I hate to admit that I went through different seasons of my life that I wrestled with God all the time. Whenever I ask Him to bless me, he sends forth a test instead. Why God?
But often times, I stumbled in the life of Joseph in the Bible. Joseph was an arrogant young man who was hated by his brothers. In their anger, they imprisoned Joseph in a pit and then sold him to Egypt as a slave.
Weak and doubtless Joseph prayed to God to help him to escape but no help was coming. I can imagine how painful his situation is. Through his years of bondage and misery, Joseph's character was refined and strengthened by his trials. And then eventually, he rose up to become the prime minister of Egypt who saved thousands of lives and his own family from starvation caused by famine in the land.
If God had not allowed Joseph's years of suffering, he would never be such a powerful agent for social justice and spiritual healing.
Did you know that what we most really need to succeed in life came through our most difficult and painful experiences?
Let me give you three reasons why God allow suffering:
1. Our painful experiences often reveal God's purpose for us.
"God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things.” (2 Corinthians 1:4, 6 NLT)"
I have so many painful experiences that I don't think I can share all of them here, but it helped me to find my purpose.
2. Your greatest ministry will flow out of your painful experiences.
Yes! I hate to say this but your greatest ministry will overflow from your painful and difficult experiences not out of your strengths or your talents but out of the painful experiences of your life. It is your weaknesses that help other people in their need, not your strengths.
Recall the last time you suffered and recall the last time you shared it with someone else. Does it bring comfort to them? Does it encourage them?
As a public speaker and a teacher, I realized how it is important to be vulnerable to people. Sharing your difficult times is worth it because it inspired people or students to endure as well.
3. Our painful and difficult experiences often lead us to great joy that can only be found in Christ alone.
Christ himself suffered when he was crucified. But did you know that while he was hanging on that cross, he thinks of you? He looks upon you with delight. He offered his life to give you a second chance to live your life for Him and in the service of others.
The purpose of suffering is to lead us back to God. We are created in His own image and likeness. God allows suffering for us to see that nothing can compare to the life He is offering.
I must say that all difficult and painful experiences was a terrible price to pay but it worth it. Without suffering we cannot say life is worth living, isn't it?
After our conversation, I prayed for my friend and ask him to release his hurts to God. I know it wasn't easy but I know he can.
Does God allow me to suffer? My answer is a resounding yes! Leaving this bible verse as an encouragement for you:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." - James 1:2-4
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