A Purpose for the Pain
The most asked question during a trial is “Why?”—Why me? Why now? There is something within us that argues against the pain to which we are subjected. Perhaps it is because the pain is painful and we long after that which is comfortable. That may be, but there is something more, and it’s hidden deeper within. It is the belief that we do not deserve the pain we face. This will often come to the surface in the form of another “why” question: “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
The problem with the question is the massive assumption it makes about our sinfulness. It falsely assumes we are not as sinful as we truly are. The reason for this assumption is the contrast between the pain and our most recent actions—the pain feels ten times as bad as our actions. But, look at the heart, and the pain is dwarfed by the sinfulness.
This approach is still short-sighted. It further assumes that God only works on the basis of retribution. If that were so, however, we would all be in hell. God is merciful, even when our lot in life is pain.
God is at work through trials to produce more than we realize. If we are in Christ, trials are never for our destruction and always for our benefit. As has been already covered this month, Romans 8:28 clearly states that all things are working for our good. God’s mercy in and through our trials brings tremendous comfort.
Charles Spurgeon was one of the great artistic masters of painting a theological picture with his words. He also spent much time plumbing the depths of despair. Combining these together, he wrote,
A ship of large tonnage is to be brought up the river; now, in one part of the stream there is a sandbank; should some one ask, "Why does the captain steer through the deep part of the channel and deviate so much from a straight line?" His answer would be, "Because I should not get my vessel into harbour at all if I did not keep to the deep channel." So, it may be, you would run aground and suffer shipwreck, if your divine Captain did not steer you into the depths of affliction where waves of trouble follow each other in quick succession.
God does not forget us in our trials. On the contrary, He is most near, skilfully turning our life in such a way that we are shaped into the image of Christ, stirred in our affections for Him, and more finely tuned to glorify His name.
After Paul gives us those comforting words in Romans 8:28, he continues by giving us the reason why all things work out for our good. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom. 8:29 emphasis mine). In essence, the point he makes is that God is so committed to your growth as a Christian that he will not withhold trials and tribulations from you.
Therefore, we no longer need to ask why God lets bad things befall good people. Rather than being distracted with such questioning, we face our trials with joy. Indeed we embrace our trials, for they are producing in us what blessings and peaceful times cannot. We count them as blessings to us, for they are producing the most blessed work, namely conformity to the image of Christ.
Turning to the letter of James, we find that he does not give us the popular statement, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (Jas. 1:2), arbitrarily. The word “joy” is purposely placed there, for those with faith inevitably meet trials with joy. Joy does not make the trial painless, it does not take the grief away, nor does it make the trial disappear. Rather, joy displays the hope of the believer to the world; it is the fruit displayed on the tree of faith.
Christian, do not be discouraged when trials seem to crush you. Do not think that because you cannot bear the weight of the pain and discomfort that you have failed in your faith, or that the trial has failed to accomplish what it set out to do. Rather, through whatever may come, place your hope in Christ. The trial will do what it will, and God will accomplish His plan for your life through it.
 Morning and Evening, Charles H. Spurgeon. (Evening, November 11).