Purposes for Suffering by Marsha Iddings

Copyrighted 2011

A Purpose for Suffering #1
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. As a child, I got called names like, Buckie Beaver and Bugs Bunny. You can probably guess why. Kids are cruel and will point out the faults of others. Mine was buck teeth. In my diary when I was about 13 years old, I wrote a prayer asking God to make it possible so I could get braces on my teeth. I even wrote that if it required surgery to fix my overbite I would be willing to go through it. Being the object of ridicule is a painful place to be as a teenager who wants to fit in with others. God answered that prayer five years later. The orthodontists and oral surgeon determined the only way to really fix the overbite was major surgery to remove 7 mm of bone from the upper jaw, and break and move the lower jaw forward. They accomplished the first but not the latter because I swelled too much during the first part for them to adequately see what they were doing for the second part. I was happy with the results of the first part and wasn't interested in more surgery, hospital time and having my mouth wired shut for another ten weeks, so I opted out of having the lower jaw done. I never dreamed that five years after that I would be working as a dental x-ray tech for the surgeon and orthodontists that did my mouth as well as seven other dentists. Patients who were scheduled for the same type of surgery I had would come in for x-rays and God used me to empathize and encourage them by my own experience. Now, many years later, I deal with other health issues. But God has helped me to be able to comfort others who also suffer because I am in that place and understand what they deal with. I am able to comfort them with the same comfort God has given me. 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 tells us that He comforts us in our trouble so that we can in turn comfort others with the same comfort He has given us. We may wonder why we must suffer. It is just part of the fallen human experience, but one of God's purposes in allowing His people to suffer is so that we can be comforters of others in their pain. When we do this, it will prevent us from falling into depression because we will be looking outward toward others instead of inward toward ourselves. God has designed it so it benefits both ourselves and those who we comfort. All praise be to our all-wise God.

A Purpose for Suffering #2
1 Peter 5:10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. I used to pencil in a small "T.P." by verses in the Bible that I had tried and proven. This is one of those "T.P." verses. God has used and is using physical suffering in my life to bring about the results listed at the end of the verse. I don't claim to have perfected these things by any means and perhaps that is why God continues to take me through the refining fire. The word perfect means mature. Looking back at my life, I can see where the trials I've been through have had the effect of helping me to mature spiritually. I have a long ways to go, but I do see where this is one of the purposes of suffering. Stablish you means to set fast or firm. Trials have made me dig into the Word of God and send my roots down deep to take firm hold of the Rock. What a blessing this has been in my life! Strengthen you means to make you strong. I can say that my trials have made me stronger in my faith and trust in God. Settle you means getting you to the place where you come to rest in Him. This one has been a little more difficult, but with each trial that comes my way, I am finding that it is getting easier to let go of my worries and simply trust and rest in His plan and purpose for the trial. The pain of trials is not fun, but when we bow in humble submission to our loving Heavenly Father, He will bring us forth from the furnace as gold in His hands. Do you see yourself making progress through your trials in these areas? Don't give up! God will finish what He has started in you.

A Purpose for Suffering #3
2 Corinthians 1:9 But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Just prior to this verse above, the Apostle Paul said, "For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: " Have you ever been to the point of despairing even of life? Have you ever felt like you could not endure any more? Have you been to the place where you realize you have no control over how long you will live? This is where the Apostle Paul had been. This is why he said that he and his comrades had the sentence of death in themselves. I think what is really neat though is that he didn't leave it there. He goes on to tell us what the result should be when we feel this way. When we feel like we can't take any more, we should let that feeling drive us to God. When we come to the end of ourselves, this is where we learn that we can not trust in ourselves. We can not pull ourselves up by our own boot straps. We have to trust in God, and what a God He is! He raises the dead. If we are trusting in ourselves then we will be miserable people indeed. We must trust in God for our salvation. We must trust in God for our strength in weakness. We must trust in God for our joy in spite of our circumstances. He is faithful, trust Him alone.

A Purpose for Suffering #4

James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. I used to say, "Don't ask God to give you patience because you will get a lot of trials instead!" But you know what? Patience can't be developed in any other way but through those things that cause us frustration and grief. If everything in our lives went along just like we planned it and nothing ever went wrong in our lives we would have no opportunity to learn patience. In the verses above, when it says "...that ye may be perfect..." in the Greek it actually carries the meaning of being mature. So when our faith is tried, it is exercising our patience. We are to be joyful because God is giving us the chance to develop patience in our lives. If we don't fight against it, not only will patience be developed but we will grow into maturity. I don't know what your particular trials are, whether it be pain, a wayward child, death or illness or financial difficulties, Scripture isn't saying for you to be happy go lucky in the face of difficulty, but it is saying that you can count it joy knowing that you have the opportunity to develop patience and maturity in godly character. There is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is fleeting and depends on the circumstances, but joy is deep and abiding in the soul even in the face of difficulty because we know God is working all things together for our spiritual good and the spiritual good of others around us. Do you have this joy?

A Purpose for Suffering #5
James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (KJV) James 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (NIV) I can't help but think of Job when I read the verses above. Here is a man who is an example of persevering under trial. Look at what he says below: Job 23:10 But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.(KJV) Those who love God will persevere under trial. This is not to say they won't get discouraged or they won't stumble, but God will give them the strength to get back up and keep going. God knows the trials we are going to face and He has control over them. He is waiting to award us the crown of life when we persevere through them. His strength is perfect in our weakness. We must trust in Him, not ourselves, to persevere through our trials. We must keep our eye on the prize. Philippians 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.(KJV) What are your trials today? What are you facing? Don't look around at your circumstances. Look up and embrace the strength that God will give you to persevere. Look up and keep your eye on the prize...the crown of life! God is faithful... Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

A Purpose for Suffering #6
James 5:11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. (KJV) I struggled with this verse a bit. I wondered how is it that those who endure great hardship are counted as happy? Hardships and trials are not fun. I've got my share of them. Can I be counted happy that I have these things to deal with? What about you? As I was doing the study on this verse, I came upon a bit of interesting information in Albert Barnes' New Testament Commentary. He says that the Greek word rendered "we count them happy" occurs only twice in the Bible. Here and in Luke 1:48 where it is rendered "shall call me blessed". The other Greek word that is rendered "blessed or happy", however, occurs often. See Matthew 5:3-11 for an example. "The sense here is, we speak of their patience with commendation. They have done what they ought to do, and their name is honoured and blessed." This makes a lot more sense now. Those who suffer through trials and endure it with patience are to be commended, honored, and blessed by others for how they have endured. This makes me ask myself this question: How do I endure my trials? Do I endure them with patience? Do I grumble and complain? Do I take it with grace and lean on my Savior's strength to help me through them? What kind of example do I give to those who watch? Albert Barnes says, "The book of Job was written, among other reasons, to show that true religion would bear any form of trial to which it could be subjected. See Job 1:9-11; Job 2:5-6. " The phrase, "have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy" talks about what God's intended purpose is. His intended purpose is to be compassionate and merciful toward us in the end. As we trust His purposes in our lives, we will experience His compassion and mercy. Now with Job, He restored everything he had and more. God may not choose to do that with us here on earth like he did with Job, but we can be assured that one day when we reach heaven, He will restore everything and more to us. In the mean time, we often do experience His compassion and mercy in our trials. It may be a kindness done for us by a friend, or a medical bill that we thought would be very large that turned out to be a lot less. It could be the sunshine coming through the window

to warm sore neck and shoulders. If we look for it, we can find His compassion and mercy daily in our trials and we have much to be thankful for.

A Purpose for Suffering #7
James 5:14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: Suffering allows others the privilege of ministering to our needs. James says the sick should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over him, attending to their spiritual needs. There are those who would pray over a sick person and if the person does not get well, they say that the sick person did not have enough faith. This is so wrong. This does nothing for the faith of the sick person. In fact, it causes untold damage to their spiritual well-being as it lays blame for their illness on themselves and their supposed lack of faith. God does not always give physical healing as a result of our prayers and faith. We see an example of this in the Apostle Paul. He prayed three times for God to remove his "thorn in the flesh". But God chose not to. Rather, prayer for the sick should be in humble submission to His will. It should be an act of yielding to God's will and prayer that the sick will respond in a godly fashion to their circumstances. It should be a request for healing if that is God's will for this person and if not, that God would reveal the purpose for the illness. James says for the elders of the church to anoint the sick with oil. In the Jewish culture of the early church, pure olive oil was used as a healing agent. It was always carried when one traveled. It was applied to recent wounds and bruises with great results. (Albert Barnes Commentary) Anointing one with oil was not intended to be some sort of magical or miraculous incantation. Rather, it was the act of attending to the sick person's physical ailment. We see an example of this in the story of the Good Samaritan: Luke 10:33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. When one is suffering or sick, we as Christians should seek to minister to that person's spiritual and physical well-being. In this day of modern medicine, anointing a person with oil is not a typical thing that is done anymore. However, we should seek to do something to help make them more comfortable and let them know in a practical way that we care about their physical well-being. Having the elders come and anoint the sick with oil and pray over them would be appropriate in that the touch of another can have a healing affect emotionally if not physically. Are you suffering? Be willing to allow others to minister to your needs. This may be humbling for you to do. Think of it as an act of humility towards God in allowing Him to

minister to you through them. So often when we are suffering, we say nothing because we don't want to be a bother, so no one knows we need anything. We are so self-sufficient and proud of our independence in our society, that we isolate ourselves from God-given help and encouragement from our friends and we deprive them of the privilege of ministering to others. We need to all be alert to the needs of others and be willing to lend encouragement and practical help where needed. God planned it that we should bear one-another's burdens in this way.

A Purpose for Suffering #8
1Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: The refiner sits when he purifies the silver and gold. Malachi 3:3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. He heats it up over the fire and the impurities come to the surface where they can be skimmed off. The fire must not be too hot or it will harm the precious metal, but it must be hot enough to cause the impurities to rise to the top. And so the refiner sits by the gold or silver to make sure it is not harmed in the process and the heat is just right. He skims the impurities off as they rise to the top and he knows the process is finished when he can see his own reflection in the gold or silver. So it is with us. When the heat is turned up in our lives through either physical affliction or difficult circumstances, it is then that we discover the hidden sins of our hearts. They come to the surface just like the dross that the heat brings up from the depths of the gold as it is refined and purified. Our Lord sits, as the refiner, next to us and helps us work on those sins so that we might be purified. Our sin, past, present and future is forgiven through the blood of Jesus shed for us on the cross. Knowing that our sin is already forgiven frees us from the bondage of guilt so that we can face those sins in our lives and work on getting victory over them with God's help. Is the heat turned up on you today? Take heart. The Refiner is there sitting right beside you. He knows exactly what He is doing and what His purposes are in your life. Persevere through the trials and you will come forth as gold.

A Purpose for Suffering #9
1 Peter 4:1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. As I read the verses above, two things stand out to me. 1. Our suffering in the body can be a vehicle to sanctification, purifying us from sinful lusts. Earthly desires begin to pale as eternity begins to come into clearer view. 2. Our suffering can give us a more God centered focus on His will. It says to arm ourselves with the same mind (referring to Christ). The NIV version uses the word attitude, which speaks volumes to me. I have a struggle with my attitude sometimes. But I really like how the English Version for the Deaf says it: "So you should strengthen yourselves with the same kind of thinking Christ had." What was the thinking Christ had as He suffered? What was foremost in His mind and heart was that He do the will of God the Father. Luke 22:42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. When suffering touches our lives it can either produce the results listed above, making us better spiritually, or it can make us bitter. How you respond to the trials and suffering in life will determine whether they make you better or bitter. 1. Are you responding with the attitude Christ had, focusing on what His will would be? Are you allowing your trials to sanctify and purify you? Are you becoming better spiritually or are you becoming bitter? Talk with the Lord today and ask Him to help you to respond with a godly attitude to the trials of life.

A Purpose for Suffering #10
1 Peter 4:12 ¶ Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. Have you been broadsided by some trials lately? Peter says it's not a strange thing. He was referring no doubt to the persecution that Christians were undergoing at the time. As I look at the news and the things that are happening in our world today, I think true Christians are in for some persecution soon. Indeed, some are already being persecuted for their faith, not only in China and other places, but right here in our own "Christian" nation. Are you prepared for that, or will it come as a surprise, a "strange" thing? While Peter may not have been specifically referring to the suffering of ill health, disabilities, or undesirable circumstances, his words can a do apply to these areas as well. If you are human, and I suspect you are, suffering and trials are going to come into your life at some point in time. It is not a strange thing to have fiery trials test you. It is part of the human experience. Yet many, if not most of us, react as if it is unfair that trials happen to us. Peter says we are to not think it strange and that we should actually rejoice in our trials because then we have a taste of what Christ went through for us to purchase our redemption. What's more, the trials we have can work to change our perspective in life. Instead of being so attached to the things of this world, suffering can cause us to look forward to Christ's return and the day we are taken up to heaven where all tears will be wiped away. What a day that will be! Are you allowing your trials to shift your perspective from one that is worldly to one that is heavenly? We have cause for rejoicing because for the true Christian, one day our sorrow and suffering will be ended. Do you have assurance of this? If not, then perhaps a reading through the Gospel of John and the book of Romans would be a good idea. You can't afford to not have your heart set right with God, as the only other alternative is eternal suffering in Hell.

A Purpose for Suffering #11
Romans 5:3-5 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. The Apostle Paul is amazingly positive about his trials. This is a man who in his own words was, Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (2 Corinthians 11:24-27) Can you imagine saying what he says in our verse for today about your trials? It takes a great deal of spiritual maturity to be able to say that. Paul is basically giving thanks for his trials. Why? Because it is in trials that he learned patience. Have you ever thought about the fact that you can never learn patience unless you experience difficulties of some sort? Patience is a godly character trait that we all need to develop, but it can't happen outside of difficult circumstances. Paul knew that learning patience means you have learned to persevere. This is what is meant by the word experience. Life's experiences teach us that "this too shall pass" and we can persevere with patience. Having this experience under our belts, helps us to look at how God has been faithful to bring us through other difficulties in the past and it gives us hope for the future, knowing He will be faithful to help us persevere through our present trials. We don't have to be ashamed (disappointed) of the hope we have in Christ because He has given us His love by the Holy Spirit which He has given us. Are you learning patience today? Then you must be dealing with some trials in your life. Don't fight against the winds of adversity. Turn your sails toward the wind and let it propel you toward learning patience, perseverance and hope. God is faithful. He will bring you through it and He will make you a better person because of it if you don't fight against the winds that blow against you.

A Purpose for Suffering #12
Hebrews 5:8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; As I was doing the research for this verse, I came upon this jewel by Albert Barnes: Verse 8. Though he were a Son. Though the Son of God. Though he sustained this exalted rank, and was conscious of it, yet he was willing to learn experimentally what is meant by obedience in the midst of sufferings. Yet learned he obedience. That is, he learned experimentally and practically. It cannot be supposed that he did not know what obedience was; or that he was indisposed to obey God before he suffered; or that he had, as we have, perversities of nature, leading to rebellion, which required to be subdued by suffering;--but that he was willing to test the power of obedience in sufferings; to become personally and practically acquainted with the nature of such obedience in the midst of protracted woes. The object here is, to show how well fitted the Lord Jesus was to be a Saviour for man-kind; and the argument is, that he has set us an example, and has shown that the most perfect obedience may be manifested in the deepest sorrows of the body and the soul. Learn hence, that one of the objects of affliction is to lead us to obey God. In prosperity we forget it. We become self-confident and rebellious. Then God lays his hand upon us; breaks up our plans; crushes our hopes; takes away our health; and teaches us that we must be submissive to his will. Some of the most valuable lessons of obedience are learned in the furnace of affliction; and many of the most submissive children of the Almighty have been made so, as the result of protracted woes.--Albert Barnes Commentary I don't think I could have said it any better than what Albert Barnes says it, so I won't comment much further on it. The question must be asked, however, where are you in learning obedience to God? Are you allowing your trials and afflictions to drive you in obedience to the feet of Jesus or are you fighting against them?

A Purpose for Suffering #13
Hebrews 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. Does it seem like the Lord is being cruel to you when you are suffering? Do you wonder why He is allowing what He has into your life? I've been there. But take a look at this verse. If we are not chastened, then we are not loved by God. God gives us correction, and many times it is "reality discipline" because He is our loving Father and he does it for our own good. Reality discipline is a term coined by Keven Lehman, a Christian psychologist. Reality discipline is when a parent just lets their child learn from the hard knocks of life. He lets the child experience the natural consequences of his behavior. A parent does this so that the child will learn from his mistakes. When they must feel the sting of the consequences, then they are ready to listen to our correction. God deals with us as His children and He allows us to suffer sometimes in order to teach and train us to trust His judgment over our own and to bring us to maturity and holiness. Consider the verses below: Hebrews 12:7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Are you experiencing God's correction in some area of your life? If so, then rejoice. You are one of His children! If not, maybe you need to take stock of your relationship with Him. Are you really one of His children? There are only two kinds of people in the world: Those who are God's children and those who are the children of the Devil. John 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. Which one is your father?

Twenty Biblical Purposes for Suffering
1. to make you perfect (mature) 2. to stablish you (set fast or firm) 3. to strengthen you (make you strong) 4. to settle you (get you to the place where you come to rest in Him)
1Peter 5:10 ¶ But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

5. so that we may comfort others like God has comforted us

2Corinthians 1:4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
6. so that we would trust in God, not ourselves

2Corinthians 1:9 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead,
7. to teach us patience & maturity

James 1:3-4 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
8. to receive a crown of life for enduring

James 1: 12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
9. to be an example of patience to others like Job was 10.to experience the pity and tenderness of God's mercy

James 5: 11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
10. to allow others the privilege of ministering to us

James 5: 14 Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

12. for praise, honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ

1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
13. for purification from sinful lusts 14. to give us a more God centered focus on His will

1 Peter 4:1-2 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
15. to be a partaker of Jesus' sufferings

1 Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
16. to learn patience which gives us proven character (experience) 17. that we might have hope because of God's love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Romans 5:3-5 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
18. to teach us obedience

Hebrews 5: 8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
19.to confirm to us that we are the Lord's child and He loves us

Hebrews 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
20.for correction

Job 5:17-18 Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.