– T.A. McMahon
Here are three ways that suffering is actually good by growing our faith.
It Produces Steadfast Faith
Romans 8:28 is one of the best known of all Bible passages that is often remembered when someone is going through a severe trial and experiencing great suffering, as it says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” This means all things, both bad and good. In fact, James wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3). That’s partially how Paul was able to endure his sufferings as he looked ahead, writing, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). A faith that is tested can be trusted, and a tested and trusted faith produces steadfastness.
It Reveals Genuine Faith
Peter wrote, “For a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Pet. 1:6-7). What Peter is saying is that trials and suffering show whether or not we have real faith from God because Jesus said in the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13) that some received the word but didn’t really have any root (Matt. 13:21). Others let the cares of the world choke it out (Matt. 13:22), but for those whose faith was genuine, it “produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matt. 13:23). This proved that their faith was the real deal, and this reality check was whether persecution and suffering would wash out the false converts (the tares) or whether the real believers (the wheat) would pass through the fire successfully.
It Produces Enduring Faith
I used to run track in high school many years ago (please don’t ask how many!), and we had to run with ankle weights. This was very grueling, but the coach was testing those who said they could run track but might have only wanted to get out of class early and those who really could run under duress. This created a great deal of suffering: shin splints, cramps, fatigue, and sore muscles. However, the coach was trying to produce endurance for those who were really serious about track and show who really had the ability. Once some fell off the track team, the rest of us continued running with ankle weights, but this was for a different reason: The coach wanted us to build endurance. That’s what suffering does for the Christian, as Paul wrote, “… but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame” (Rom. 5:3-5a).
Suffering proves that our faith is genuine. It makes us more steadfast. It also “produces endurance which produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame,” and that makes suffering work out for our best; always (Rom. 8:28).