Have you ever considered Job?
To give a brief summary, this book in the Bible tells of Job - "a blameless and righteous man." Satan insists that Job is only blameless and righteous because God has blessed him. So God says, "Alright, Satan. Do your worst, and see how Job reacts. Only spare his life."
So Satan gives Job a heavy dose of suffering. And let me tell you, it's a lot.
Job experiences the gamut of reactions: lament, anger, despair, confusion, desperation, praise-- you get the point. His friends attempt to give him advice, but it's all the wrong advice. In the end, God answers Job: "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations?" -- basically: Listen, Job. You don't know the Lord's plans. How can you even attempt to claim that God is unjust? He has a purpose that you can't even begin to see. Job finally acknowledges, "Therefore I uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me," and he repents.
In the end, God restores his riches, health, and family in abundance - more so than before.
You really ought to read it for yourself.
Anyways, that's not the point of this post.
The point is that I want you to
Really. Consider. Job.
People can have trouble with this book. And I get that. It's tough for us to understand how we Christians can claim God is good, and then read about an entire book where God allows Job to endure massive suffering. How can God actually love Job so much, when so much of Job's life is a test of sorts - an ongoing suffering?
Here's my question:
What if God hadn't tested Job?
The reality of life is that there will be suffering. Sometimes it's of a lesser degree, and sometimes it's really - almost-unbearably - painful. We just want it to be over, and a lot of the time, we don't understand why God would put us through so much pain.
But consider again our friend, Job. Yes, his suffering was great. No, he didn't understand it, and yes, he wanted release. But had he not gone through it, where would we turn during our suffering? How much perspective have we gained through Job's story? Job had no idea that for centuries after his life, we would be understanding our own place in the Biblical narrative through his experiences.
In the same way, when we are suffering, we have no idea how God will use it to effect others in the Biblical story. If you've gone through a painful experience, you may realize that your story - through the Lord's redemptive nature - has the power to impact, encourage, comfort, and teach another. If you don't know this, allow yourself to be open to the way God can use that time of pain to give hope to another. You may also have been able to step back and look at how that painful experience allowed you to grow. You have a better perspective five - ten - twenty- years down the road.
God redeemed and restored Job - likewise, He will redeem and restore us. He will use our sufferings for good - for ourselves, for others, and ultimately, for His Kingdom.