Seeing God in Your Suffering

June 4, 2024

by Maria Fontaine

No matter how diverse man’s cultures or religions may be, this earth life inevitably includes the element of suffering in various forms. It’s a natural reaction to want the suffering, the grief, the pain, the loneliness to go away. But when we allow these “natural” reactions to overwhelm us, we are missing a major element of the picture.

            Suffering is hard to bear in the present, whether it’s our own suffering or, sometimes hardest of all, when the suffering touches the people we love. It breaks our heart to watch them endure these things, even when we know it can help them grow in the end.

            When the Lord knows that a particular source of suffering has accomplished its full purpose in our lives, then removing that suffering, in response to our prayers, is how the Lord works. However, what if more good and growth and blessings are still to be gained from a particular source of suffering, and these blessings and growth need to come at different times? As the words to a song chorus say when referring to our suffering and God bringing the good from it: “If it’s not good, then He’s not done; no, He’s not done with it yet.” He’s still working even greater good and bringing greater growth and blessings from that suffering.  That’s when we need to trust Him even more. He gives us the grace to endure until we reap the full goodness that He wants us to gain.

            Our relationship with the Lord and our knowledge of His Word can build our faith and trust so that we can learn to accept God’s plan in our lives. The closer we draw to Jesus, the more we begin to see that whatever He allows us to face can actually result in precious treasures of wisdom, compassion, mercy, patience, and many other wonderful things.

            Faith doesn’t make life pain- and suffering-free. It does something infinitely better. It gives us a broader perspective that includes godly wisdom to see past the suffering of the moment and to trust for the ultimate good that the Lord knows will blossom in its time. We can sometimes tend to equate suffering with the consequences of having done something wrong, but the purpose of suffering is mostly about training, learning, and growing in wisdom.

            Building a closer relationship with Jesus, both in and through our suffering, can transform our understanding and approach to prayer. It also personalizes our ministering to others who are struggling because, even though we can never know the hearts of others completely in this life, Jesus helps us to grasp more of what they face.

            I want to share some quotes and Bible verses to illustrate this point in the hopes that you can use these for your own encouragement and as a tool to share with others when they are facing struggles of all kinds. We need to look to Jesus at every turn, knowing that He is at work in our lives preparing us for all that He alone knows awaits us in the future, both in this life and the next.

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Jesus faced anxiety in the Garden of Gethsemane, just as we all do when challenged by the fears and the sorrows and sufferings of this life. He overcame through committing Himself to follow His Father through whatever the Father knew was best. He set the example of how to defeat anxiety and fear, by placing our own will and our future securely in God’s hands. The victory isn’t necessarily in preventing everything we don’t want to go through, but in trusting the Lord’s faithfulness to turn everything we face into a greater good in the end.—Author unknown

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.—Proverbs 3:5–6 (ESV)

Most of the [Bible] verses written about praise were voiced by people faced with crushing heartaches, injustice, treachery, slander, and scores of other difficult situations.—Joni Eareckson Tada

All these people died in faith, without having received the things they were promised. However, they saw them and welcomed them from afar. And they acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. Now those who say such things show that they are seeking a country of their own. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.—Hebrews 11:13–14, 16 (BSB)

Suffering in this life comes to us all, but for those who love God, suffering can always be used as wings to lift us, rather than weights to crush us.—Author unknown

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.—Romans 12:21 (NIV)

He who faces no calamity will need no courage. Mysterious though it is, the characteristics in human nature which we love best grow in a soil with a strong mixture of troubles.—Harry Emerson Fosdick

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.—1 Peter 1:6–7 (ESV)

Though poor in this world’s goods, though grieving the loss of loved ones, though suffering pain of body, though harassed by sin and Satan, though hated and persecuted by worldlings, whatever be the case and lot of the Christian, it is both his privilege and duty to rejoice in the Lord.—A. W. Pink

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.—Hebrews 12:2 (ESV)

God will not permit any troubles to come upon us, unless He has a specific plan by which great blessing can come out of the difficulty.—Peter Marshall

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.—John 16:33 (ESV)

Joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering, it is the presence of God.—Sam Storms

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.—Psalm 16:11 (NKJV)

Those times when you feel like quitting can be times of great opportunity, for God uses your troubles to help you grow.—Warren Wiersbe

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.—Romans 5:3–5 (ESV)

You need not cry very loud; he is nearer to us than we think.—Brother Lawrence

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.—Matthew 28:20 (KJV)

Tears are often the telescope by which men see far into heaven.—Henry Ward Beecher

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.—Romans 8:18 (NIV)

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

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.—1 Peter 4:12–13 (ESV)

Often, we endure trials seeking God’s deliverance from them. Suffering is painful for us to endure or to see those we love endure. While our instinct is to flee trials, remember that even in the midst of suffering, God’s will is being done.—Paul Chappell

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.—Jeremiah 29:11 (BSB)

Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.—C. S. Lewis

Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.—Hebrews 5:8–9 (NLT)

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.—1 John 3:16 (NLT)

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.—Helen Keller

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.—1 Timothy 6:12 (NIV)

Snuggle in God’s arms. When you are hurting, when you feel lonely, left out, let Him cradle you, comfort you, reassure you of His all-sufficient power and love.—Kay Arthur

Heartache forces us to embrace God out of desperate, urgent need. God is never closer than when your heart is aching.—Joni Eareckson Tada

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears; He delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted; He saves the contrite in spirit.—Psalm 34:17–18 (BSB)

God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.—Augustine

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin.—Hebrews 4:15 (BSB)

When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.—Peter Marshall

I ask that out of the riches of His glory He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Then you, being rooted and grounded in love, will have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.—Ephesians 3:16–19 (BSB)

You don’t have to be alone in your hurt! Comfort is yours. Joy is an option. And it’s all been made possible by your Savior. He went without comfort so you might have it. He postponed joy so you might share in it. He willingly chose isolation so you might never be alone in your hurt and sorrow.—Joni Eareckson Tada

If I had not felt certain that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings.—Adoniram Judson

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory that is far beyond comparison. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.—2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (BSB)

“Why is this happening to me? Why am I having such a difficult time?” One answer is that life is supposed to be difficult! It’s what enables us to grow. Remember, earth is not heaven!—Rick Warren

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.—Romans 8:17 (NIV)

God brings men into deep waters not to drown them, but to cleanse them.—James H. Aughey

The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt.—Thomas Merton

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.—1 John 4:18 (ESV)

Think of the ills from which you are exempt, and it will aid you to bear patiently those which now you may suffer.—Richard Cecil

Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.—2 Corinthians 1:9–10 (ESV)

For the believer in Jesus, every trial of suffering is an opportunity to grow in the faith, to grow in our relationship with the Lord, and to see Him work in our lives in a uniquely personal way that demonstrates His compassion, His comfort, His tender mercies, His loving kindnesses, His grace, and His endless love. Only God knows what each of us needs to experience and learn in order to be “conformed to the image of his Son.”—T. A. McMahon

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.—James 1:2–4 (BSB)