God’s Plan for Suffering

Orginal_John_Hannibal_Smith

“I love it when a plan comes together!” If you’re a fan of classic 80’s TV, then you recognize this common catchphrase from Hannibal Smith, the leader of the A-Team. If you ever watched the show, you also know that it never seemed like anything was going as planned. Each episode was filled with chaos and improvisation, yet in the end the good guys always won and the bad guys lost – the plan indeed came together.

I bring up this little bit of TV nostalgia because it reminds me of an important truth every believer should remember: God has a plan even when it doesn’t seem like it. One specific way this truth plays out frequently is in suffering. As we face hardships in our lives we may be tempted to view them as accidental or senseless, but we must remember that our suffering is not something that slips by God or is out of His control. On the contrary, God has a good plan for our suffering. The Bible is filled with affirmations of this truth, but one clear passage is 1 Peter 1:6-7: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Notice how Peter says “necessary” in v 6 and “so that” in v 7. Isn’t it comforting to know that God is sovereignly working for your benefit even in suffering? We may not know all of the details, but Peter does share with us some of the plans God has for suffering in the lives of believers. Let me briefly summarize them for you:

  • Purification of our faith (1:7). Trials force us to evaluate our faith and can produce in us a more pure faith.
  • Strengthening our relationship to Him (8). Trials can increase our love for and dependence on Jesus.
  • Developing our holiness (1:15). Suffering is an opportunity to stretch spiritually. We can act on the holiness we have, producing a holiness that will show up in all areas of life.
  • Manifesting His love through you (1:22). God wants you to use your suffering to love other people. Suffering can be seen as a new tool for showing God’s love to others.
  • Increasing our appetite for His Word (1:24-2:2). Suffering can create in us a new and fresh desire for Scripture. God wants us to turn to His Word for satisfaction, comfort, wisdom and guidance and trials are often necessary to drive us there.

I suspect that in every trial I face, God has at least one of these purposes in mind for me. We may not know the entire picture, but it is a tremendous comfort to know that in the midst of the chaos of life, God has a plan. One day it will all “come together” in a way that is both for my benefit and God’s glory.

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