“I should have been as though I had not been, carried from womb to tomb” (Job 10:19, NASB). These are the words of the suffering Job as he voices his protest to God. Having lost every earthly belonging and all ten of his children—and presently being surrounded by “miserable comforters” (16:2)—he regretted ever being born.
“My soul loathes my life; I will give free course to my complaint, I will speak in the bitterness of my soul’ (10:1). “Your hands have made me and fashioned me, an intricate unity; yet You would destroy me. Remember, I pray, that You have made me like clay. And will You turn me into dust again?” (10:8, 9). “Why then have You brought me out of the womb? Oh, that I had perished and no eye had seen me!” (Job 10:18).
Intense, prolonged suffering can bring even believers to the point of despair; filled with protest, and wishing they had been carried directly from the womb to the tomb. This is the constant reality of suffering. The Apostle Peter understood this and counseled his afflicted readers:
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet. 1:6–9).
This Scripture gives us deep encouragement as we think about seven benefits of suffering.
Trials Are Temporary and Incomparable to Our Eternal Glory
We need to view our suffering as that which lasts “for a little while,” and as “light affliction, which is but for a moment… working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
Trials Are Necessary for our Personal Growth
God in His infinite wisdom knows exactly what kinds of trials must be designed to stimulate the growth necessary for our spiritual wellbeing. For example, Paul was given a thorn in the flesh and God assured him it was necessary to stunt the growth of his cancerous pride. Through it all he learned that God’s grace was sufficient (2 Cor. 12:7–10). Trials bring the reality of daily grace into clear focus for us.
Trials Stress and Grieve Us
There is no pretending here. Peter knew his readers were grieved. This doesn’t refer to the suffering itself, but to the mental effects of suffering, which many times are worse. Job said, “If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint, I will put off my sad face and wear a smile,’ I am afraid of all my sufferings; I know that You will not hold me innocent” (9:27, 28). One benefit of the pain that accompanies suffering is that it often compels us to search our hearts to see what may need to be cleansed by God through honest confession. “Search me, O, Lord,” should be our prayer.
Trials Are Diverse in Type and Source
Trials come in “various” shapes and sizes. Sometimes they afflict our bodies and other times our minds. Sometimes they disturb our comfort zones and other times our loved ones. Trials may come from God. Job said to his grieving wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10). Trials may come from Satan (as permitted by God). Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” came via “a messenger of Satan” sent to “buffet” him (2 Cor. 12:7). Trials may come from the world (Jn. 15:19). Trials may also come from our own disobedience (Heb. 12:6, 11). Ultimately, of course, they all come from the sovereign hand of God which is our greatest source of comfort.
Trials Refine Our Faith
God’s purpose in suffering is “that the genuineness of [our] faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” God does not ordain trials to set us up for failure, but to prove the reality of our faith in a way similar to the process of purifying metals; our faith being more precious than gold itself. When we submit to the will of God in the midst of our trials we learn to say with Job, “When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
Trials Are Faith-building
Christians can rejoice in the midst of trials because even though we do not see God we believe in Him. This maturing faith produces joy that exceeds speech and is full of glory—even in the face of pain. “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5:3–4).
Trials Prompt Longing for God
Trials not only prepare us for eternity, but they make us ache for it too. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).
In the end, Job learned a priceless lesson. How different his words to God sound after his suffering: “‘I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes'” (Job 42:5, 6). Job no longer wishes he were dead because he now has 20/20 faith. He sees his trial as a gift from above sent for his good and God’s glory.
Richard Sibbes, the Puritan, once wrote: “Suffering brings discouragements, because of our impatience. ‘Alas!’ we lament, ‘I shall never get through such a trial.’ But if God brings us into the trial he will be with us in the trial, and at length bring us out, more refined. We shall lose nothing by dross (Zech. 13:9)” (The Bruised Reed, p. 54).
God, give us this perspective!
Join the Conversation
What other Scriptures have you used to comfort and counsel yourself and others during times of suffering?
Note: This post is an adaptation of a chapter from Delight in the Word: Biblical Counseling for Everyday Issues.