How can I help others discover the benefits of suffering?
When expectations are unmet or a tragedy occurs, most of us react with frustration and anger. We want to blame someone or something for causing our pain. When we don’t understand why bad things happen, we easily become bitter toward God and others.
If we ask God for discernment, however, we can discover many of the benefits of our suffering and avoid the trap of bitterness. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28; see also Jeremiah 29:11). Searching for God’s answers and learning to view “bad things” as “good things in disguise” are disciplines that God wants His children to develop as they mature spiritually. (See I Corinthians 2:14 and Romans 8:1–17.)
A hurting person often needs encouragement to recognize God’s blessings. A brother or sister in the Lord can come alongside him to redirect his thinking and help him see a painful circumstance from a different perspective—a redemptive perspective.
As the Lord gives you an opportunity to help someone see the benefits God wants to bring about through suffering, the following suggestions may be useful. Ask the Lord to guide you by His Holy Spirit as you minister to a hurting person. (See John 16:13 and Proverbs 3:5–6.)
Listen to His Story
Before suggesting that a hurting person answer the question “why did God let this happen,” it is wise to ask him to tell you about his situation. Listen attentively and sincerely as he relates his story.
Compassion is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” When Jesus saw the needs of others, He was moved with compassion. (See Matthew 9:36, 14:14, and 15:32.) As you show someone who is hurting how to gain freedom from bewilderment, bitterness, and anger, God can use you as a channel of His love, compassion, and power.
Ask the Question
When he finishes sharing with you, gently ask him, “Why do you think God let this happen?” Several moments of silence will usually follow, as he tries to evaluate his circumstances with this new approach.
Proceed on the Authority of God’s Word
Invite him to look at a few verses of Scripture with you. Read Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Explain that we can trust God to allow only circumstances that will ultimately benefit us as we fulfill His purposes for our lives.
- Read the verse again, emphasizing key words such as all and good and his purpose.
- Reassure him that we can trust God to accomplish His purposes in our lives.
- Remind him that God will not allow anything to happen to anyone without His permission. (See Job 1:6–12.)
There are many verses in the Bible that can deepen our faith in God. As the Holy Spirit prompts you to turn to specific verses or passages, be sensitive and obedient to His direction. The following verses can provide pertinent insights about the ways of God: I Peter 4:12–13, Romans 9:14–24, Isaiah 55:8–9, Genesis 50:20, and Psalm 121. Read these verses together, if necessary, and affirm the truths that they state.
Recall Jesus Christ’s Example
Jesus was “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Explain that we can learn to obey our heavenly Father like Jesus obeyed Him. Jesus showed us the right way to respond to suffering: He trusted God, no matter what happened to Him.
Focus on God’s Goal of Conforming Us to the Image of Christ
Explain that God’s goal is to conform us to the image of His Son (see Romans 6:12–14). As we choose to trust God in the midst of suffering, He will bring us to maturity in Him and will develop Godly character qualities in our lives. (See Romans 8:28–30.) The Bible tells us that the Son of God learned obedience through what He suffered. (See Hebrews 5:8.) As we receive God’s grace to respond to tribulation like Jesus would respond, with humility and faith, we will become more like Him.
Encourage Him to Avoid Despair and Bitterness
Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Explain that we cannot avoid suffering, but we can avoid despair and bitterness.
Share Personal Examples
At this point, ask God to give you direction about sharing personal examples of God’s redemption of hurtful situations. Your testimony can be a great source of comfort and encouragement. If you don’t want to share personal examples, be prepared to share testimonies of individuals who have experienced God’s redemption of their suffering.
Ask God to direct your thoughts and to give you pure hearts.
Lead the other person to:
- Thank God for His promise to teach the meek His way, and ask the Lord to give him grace to have a meek spirit. (See Psalm 25:9.)
- Consciously offer to God, as a sacrifice that is pleasing to Him, his rights and expectations.
- Acknowledge that he has been bought with a price and that he is God’s child. (See I Corinthians 7:22–24 and 6:19–20.)
- Ask God to redeem his suffering and to show him the benefits He wants to bring about through these painful circumstances. (See Hebrews 2:9–10, James 5:9–11, and Romans 8:28–29.)
Make a List of Benefits
Encourage him to begin writing down possible benefits to be gained through his painful circumstances. Help him realize that at first he may not be able to think of any benefits, but as he submits his will to God, the Lord will be faithful to show him ways He wants to redeem the suffering.
Ask Helpful Questions
Help him get started by asking questions such as these:
- How could this situation allow you to humble yourself?
- What Godly character qualities could this situation build in you if you respond to it correctly?
- Is this God’s way of disciplining you?
- What can you learn that will prepare you to encourage others?
- Is God allowing you to suffer in order to show His love to someone else?
- How could this situation help you understand and appreciate Christ more?
Identify Similar Situations in Scripture
As we face painful situations, it is helpful to study passages of Scripture that describe similar circumstances. For example, a person who is struggling with bitterness as a result of betrayal or rejection by his family would particularly be enlightened by a study of the life of Joseph. In fact, in any painful circumstance, a study of the life of Joseph and God’s redemption of his suffering would be beneficial. Joseph suffered much, and God blessed him, his family, and nations as a result of Joseph’s wise responses in each painful situation.
Remember That God Is in the Redeeming Business
God stands ready and eager to give each hurting person His sufficient grace, to bring comfort, and to redeem suffering.
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:11–14).