Suffering is designed to demonstrate the power and grace of God. During His ministry, a blind man came to see Jesus. He wanted to be healed. But before that happened, the disciples had a question. “And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2).
It was a common Jewish belief that sickness was directly related to sin. There was an assumption, a false assumption that either this man had sinned, by way of Divine anticipation, or his parents had done something terrible so that their child was born blind. “Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3). It was the sovereign will of God that had caused the child to be born blind.
What we call unfortunate, what we call a tragic accident of birth, the Bible addresses as the Secret counsel of God according to His divine decree.
When Moses told the Lord he stuttered, and had probably stuttered since childhood, God reminded His servant that he was no accident. “And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?” (Exodus 4:11).
Roy Campanella was one of the first African Americans to play in the US Baseball major leagues. In a distinguished career he won the Brooklyn Dodgers Most Valued Player award many times, and in 1955 was in the team that won the World Series.
But in January 1958 the baseball career of Roy Campelnella was cut short after a car crash left him a quadriplegic.
After he was injured, Roy spent a lot of time in the Institute of Physical medicine and Rehabilitation in New York City.
One day he stopped to read a golden plaque upon one of the walls, and for someone who had been blessed with such athletic gifts it resonated deeply within him:
“I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn to humbly obey.
I asked for health that I might do great things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise,
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of others.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing I asked for, but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among men, most richly blessed!
Some suffering is designed to magnify and glorify the power, mercy, and grace of God.
Some suffering is designed to cause the believer to learn the value of the Word and will of God.
The Psalmist said, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray: but now have I kept thy word” (Psalms 119:67).
Perhaps David had in mind the time when he was tempted by Satan to number the people of Israel. There was no need for the census other than pride in numbers. David had been warned not to do something so prideful for it was sin. But David persisted.
The people were numbered, and God was displeased. Judgment fell upon Israel. David was afflicted, and learned to keep God’s Word (1 Chron. 21:1-8).
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (Psalms 119:71).
Some Christians suffer in order to have patience produced in the life. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2).
The desire to act in an impatient manner can lead to tragic and lasting consequences. Consider some people who acted impatiently, and the spiritual lesson that is learned.
Esau acted impatiently when he became hungry, and sold his birthright for a single meal (Gen. 25:29-34).
The Church learns that there are some sins that cannot be reversed, even with tears of repentance (Heb. 12:17).
Sarah, Abraham’s wife, acted impatiently. She encouraged her husband to engage in an inappropriate sexual relationship with Hagar in order to have a child, not of promise, but of promiscuity (Gen. 16:4).
The consequences of that unholy union have reverberated down through the centuries to the present hour for there is blood in the sand in the Middle East because the descendants of Hagar’s child, Ishmael, and the child born to Sarah, Isaac are in conflict.
The Church is reminded of the importance of waiting on the Lord. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12).
Saul, king of Israel, also became impatient and acted without regard to God’s plan (1 Sam. 13:5-14; 1 Sam. 15:10-21). The Church learns that others suffer needlessly when people are impatient.