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The Benefits of Pain and Suffering: A Biblical Perspective

For many years, if I’m being honest and transparent, I lived with some faulty theology. I thought that if I was serving the Lord with my whole heart, that would somehow protect me, insulate me, from pain and suffering. And during my most painful moments, I cried out to God, “But God, I would be so much more effective for the kingdom if I wasn’t in pain all the time…” But that isn’t consistent with scripture. Jesus warned us in John 16:33 that we would experience pain, suffering, and adversity in this life.


Believing the Enemy’s Lies

In our most painful trials, we can succumb to the lies of the enemy: “If God really loved you, he would have healed you by now.” “What you’ve done disqualifies you not only from God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness but service to him.” “If people only knew about your past, they would reject you and have nothing to do with you.” Or, “God is ashamed of you. You need to clean up your act before you can approach him.”  Because we live in such a pain-averse society, we can easily begin to believe the lies of the enemy, and to question, “If God really loved me, why does he let me suffer?”


Living in a Sinful World

No one particularly likes this answer to pain and suffering, but we live in a fallen world, and when Adam and Eve sinned in response to the enemy’s temptation, pain and suffering entered humanity’s experience right there in the Garden of Eden. “To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children” (Gen. 3:16 NIV). Pain is a consequence of the original sin, and believing the father of lies rather than our heavenly father. If that was the end of the explanation as to why we must suffer, it would be tempting to become angry with God. Yet, because we serve a good and redemptive God, we can be grateful that he redeems our pain.


Reflecting Jesus to a Lost World

When we experience pain and suffering, whether it be physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, or grief and loss, others are quick to slap on a Bible verse Band-Aid from Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” While it is true, that God can and does bring good from our painful trials, the real gem comes in the following verses: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30). Friends, in our suffering, we become a greater reflection of Jesus.


Hope Comes Through Suffering

Because we serve a good and redemptive God, he never wastes our pain. James 1:2-4 reminds us, “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.” In our pain and suffering, we learn perseverance which helps us get through every other trial we encounter. While this may not seem to mitigate our comfort with suffering, God takes it a step further in Romans 5:3-4, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.” So, our suffering teaches us perseverance, which builds our character and makes us more like Jesus, and in the process, our hope is strengthened. 


Perseverance Brings God’s Mercy and Compassion

When we’re in the thick of a painful trial, we’re often tempted to give up. But Jesus never gave up, despite suffering more than we ever will, so it’s not in our DNA as a child of God to give up, despite the temptation. As we persevere in our pain and suffering, we can delight in knowing that doing so engenders God’s mercy and compassion, just as it did for Job: “As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:11 NIV).

Friend, I don’t know what painful trial you might be enduring right now or have just come out of, whether it’s physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual, but let me assure you that we serve such a good and redemptive God that he never wastes our pain or our past. He promises to bring beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3) and beautiful sacred scars for our painful wounds.


Will you trust him to do so?


Written by: Dr. Michelle Bengtson

Dr. Michelle Bengtson is a hope concierge! Her passion is to share hope and encouragement with others, whether as a board-certified clinical neuropsychologist, host of the award-winning podcast Your Hope Filled Perspective, or the author of several award-winning books including Hope Prevails, Breaking Anxiety’s Grip, and The Hem of His Garment.

Her newest release is Sacred Scars: Resting in God’s Promise That Your Past is Not Wasted. She loves all things teal, spending time with friends and family, taking long walks, or sitting by quiet shores, and it’s a bonus when any of those are accompanied by sea salt caramel chocolate! You can find her and her hope-filled resources at DrMichelleB.com



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