A Common Delemma
This is the conclusion of an excellent article in which the author calls attention to various purposes of God in human suffering. It could be the harvest of what was sown in earlier life, or it could be heredity, a test of faith and courage or a means of education.
Suffering May Be Chastisement
The children of God will be inevitably chastised. They who are without chastisement are not sons (Heb. 12:8).
A careful examination of the inspired record of David’s life will show that. Every trouble he had appears to be linked by the Holy Spirit with some sin. This is a warning. God has given many instances of His governmental dealings with His people. “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth” (Heb. 12:6). Jacob deceived his father with his brother’s clothes; years later his sons deceived him with their brother’s clothes.
The sons of Jacob sold Joseph their brother into Egypt and bondage, and God allowed their sons to be sold to Egyptian bondage.
Rachel cried in apparent anger, “Give me children lest I die;” God allowed her to have children, but die she did. David brought Uriah to his house under false pretences, made him drunk and planned his death by the hand of another; but God who saw all allowed David to reap the consequences of his sin. His own son was invited to a house under false pretences, made drunk and slain by the hand of another.
We should distinguish between “chastisement” and “wrath.” Chastisement is for sons while wrath is for sinners, the one is for correction and instruction while the other is penal and for destruction; therefore, the former is temporary and the latter eternal; the one is for our good (Heb. 12:11) and the other for the glory of God (Rom. 9:22-23) upon those who have fitted themselves for destruction.
Suffering May Be Fellowship
The Lord suffered “the just for the unjust that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). In that He stood all alone. The believer may suffer for Him. If one suffer for Christ’s sake, he will receive a reward. “If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:17).
Our light afflictions which are but for a moment, work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we look not at the things that are seen but at the things that are not seen (2 Cor. 4:17). What joy it will bring in that day when rest is known if there is a sense of having been faithful to Him who loved us even unto death!
Suffering May Be Vindictive
When Satan presented himself before God, he told God that he knew Job better than the Almighty; that Job would curse God if only he had him in his hands for a while. One can imagine the keen interest of the angels who were watching. God, however, proved to Satan, angels, and men, that He knew best. Job suffered, but sinned not with his lips, and God was vindicated. Thereby God manifested His power to sustain men while they pass through the deepest suffering.
Too often there is failure in the path of sorrow and the enemies of the Lord are given occasion to blaspheme. The words, “because of the angels” (1 Cor. 11:10) are too often overlooked. Job left us an example of how to suffer; he vindicated God, waited patiently, received his reward, and obtained a name among God’s great men. May this bring both comfort and warning to all who read and suffer. God has a purpose in all.
God ever does that which is right. Faith’s grasp of this enables one to say:
“Have Thine own way, Lord,
Have Thine own way.
Thou art the potter,
I am the clay.
Mould me and make me
After Thy will,
While I am waiting
Yielded and still.”
One striking passage often passed unnoticed is Romans 3:3. “That Thou (God) … mightest overcome when Thou art judged.” Think of God being judged! It is on the other shore where it is possible to look back and see things in their true light, that full understanding of what God has been doing with us is obtained; not here but there; not now but then, will all acknowledge God was right. He will have overcome when He is judged; meanwhile “we walk by faith.”
In Deuteronomy 8:16 another reason is given for God allowing His people to suffer in that great terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, scorpions, drought, no water; it was “to do thee good at thy latter end.”
Life may be full of difficulties, at times we may ask why, but God has a wise purpose. He desires us to be “conformed into the image of His son.”
The diamond must be chipped in order to reflect light; the vine-branch purged to bear fruit; the child trained to take his place in society; the stone cut to bring out the image; and God must deal with His own in sundry ways in order to transform them into the image of His son.
While it is a great thing to win souls for Christ, or in other ways to serve the Lord, it should be remembered that to be like unto our Lord is the greatest; this is not wrought in a day. It is a life-work. The Lord whose love cannot be doubted acts as He sees fit.
Chipping may be painful, purging unpleasant to the flesh; but the Lord who has passed through greater suffering knows just when to “stay the wind.” He will not leave His own to pass through deep waters alone, but says, “I will be with thee” (Isa. 43:2). He who sits as the refiner arrests the furnace’s heat when He sees His own image in the melt.
Both faith and patience are needed to “endure.” “Lord, increase our faith” for “We have need of patience.”