I just found out that a parent of one of my students at Warner Elementary was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wanted to send her some encouragement. I was searching for a post on Facebook that I had written awhile back, but for the life of me, could not find! So, I decided to look in the Drafts, just to see if maybe I had written it, but just never posted it to Facebook. And sure enough, there it was… So anyways, this post explains what God’s purpose is in the difficult experiences we must face in life, as explained by God in His Word, which is truth. Even though God doesn’t always give us the answer to our “Why?!” questions, He does tell us His purpose in causing or allowing these difficult times to happen in our lives.
I think you might be a completely insane, lunatic if you said that you actually enjoy affliction, trials, and hardship. None of it is pleasant. And yet, God commands (yes, that’s right… commands!) us to rejoice in the midst of it because He is behind it, and using it for His glory (James 1:2-4). And He is not a God that “willingly afflicts or grieves the children of men.” (Lamentations 3:33)
So what is God’s purpose in all of these things?
God’s Purpose in Affliction
When things are difficult in life, and you’re left with nothing but questions, God does have a purpose in your affliction. He may not give you the exact answers to why it’s in your life (He usually never does), but nonetheless, it is ordained by the sovereign plan and wisdom of God for His purposes and glory. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, God gives us a reason for the affliction He brings into our lives.
Read this verse…
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Why does God allow us to be afflicted?
“…who comforts us in all our affliction, SO THAT we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
God causes or allows affliction in our lives so that He will be magnified in being both the comforter of our affliction, and so that through His comfort experienced in the midst of our affliction, we may be able to comfort others who are in any affliction.
So, it’s twofold… 1. His purpose is to glorify His name in proving Himself to be the Father of mercies and God of all comfort in the midst of our affliction. And 2. His purpose in comforting you in your affliction is so that you will then comfort others who are in any affliction with the comfort that you’ve received from God in your own affliction.
The truth is that everyone’s experience of affliction via circumstance, pain, or suffering may be different from someone else’s. But one’s ability to comfort another person in their affliction does not depend on that person having gone through the same experience, but rather from experiencing God’s comfort in affliction.
When you go through difficult times, it often feels like you’re the only one going through it, but God assures us in His word that it’s for His glory, our comfort, and for the comfort of others who are afflicted.
God also commands us to rejoice in our affliction. Knowing that God is purposeful in the affliction we experience helps us to continue to walk by faith, and to keep rejoicing in Him who works all things together for His perfect and pleasing will.
God’s Purpose in Trials
“Uhh, what?!” you may be asking. “How in the world am I supposed to rejoice in the midst of my hardship and affliction?”
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
Why does God command us to rejoice in the midst of trials?
Because just like God’s purpose in our affliction is to reveal His comfort and grace so that we might be able to comfort others with God’s comfort, God’s purpose in trials is to test our faith, which produces steadfastness or endurance. Again, here’s another reason that God gives us on why we experience trials, hardship, and affliction. His trials will make our faith more durable so that His light will shine brighter in the midst of affliction and hardships, as the world witnesses our response to those trials in faith and trust. As we grow to learn that God’s trials are purposeful for the steadfastness of our faith, He will be glorified in our rejoicing in those trials. God is more glorified in our rejoicing of trials that He brings, rather than our complaining of the hardship we experience as a result of God’s trials.
God’s Purpose in Hardship
God is purposeful in the hardship that He brings into our lives.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:3-11
So, Paul reminds us that we are to consider hardship as the discipline of God. If God did not discipline us, then we would be illegitimate children and not sons and daughters of our heavenly Father.
So, hardship should first remind us of God’s love for us as His children, not wanting us to stray into disobedience and a life of sin.
What is the purpose of God’s discipline?
“but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.”
At first glance, we may not understand what “sharing his holiness” means. But if we look a little further in the text, God gives us the answer in v.14 – “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
So God’s purpose in hardship to remind us that we are His children, and as a loving Father disciplines His children to keep them from going astray from what is right and good and true, God disciplines for our good so that we may share his holiness, or so that we may see Him more clearly. It also yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. It yields righteousness when we are trained by it, and understand that it comes from God for His purpose and good in our lives, but if we do not understand, the devil can try to convince us to despise His discipline in our lives, which would not yield the fruit of righteousness, but instead an attitude of bitterness towards our loving Father, instead of loving submission and trust in the sovereign will of God.
All of these things–affliction, trials, hardship–God purposefully uses in our lives so that we might glorify Him more. None of them are too pleasant, but when we realize that God is using them for His glory and for our good, by His grace working within us, we will learn to submit to them with a joyful, patient and trusting heart, rather than despising God for bringing it into our lives.