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JFH Devotionals by J.M. Farro

The Question of Suffering

"Though He was God's Son, He learned trusting-obedience by what He suffered, just as we do."
- Hebrews 5:8 MSG

When I wrote about my husband's recent heart attack, and how the Lord mightily revealed His love and care throughout the whole ordeal, I heard from a woman who brought up some interesting questions. Wouldn't it have been an even bigger blessing, and a greater sign of God's love, if my husband hadn't had this heart attack in the first place? And if the Lord puts us through such tests to prove His greatness and power, doesn't that seem selfish on His part? I sympathized with this woman, because there have been plenty of times when I've had doubts of my own. But in the case of my husband's brush with death, all I could say was, "Thank You, Lord, for sparing my husband's life." Should I have questioned God, and demanded answers from Him? No, because the Bible says that it pleases God when we find something to thank and praise Him for in every situation. I've discovered that if I make even a feeble attempt to find something good in a situation, I can always come up with something pretty quickly. Scripture says: "Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be; be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18 AMP)

I believe this woman missed a very important point on this subject, and that's that God doesn't allow suffering to touch the lives of believers just to glorify Himself, but to equip His children to fulfill their God-given destinies. If you look at the people the Lord blessed and honored the most throughout the pages of the Bible, you will see that they were very often the ones who suffered the most. In fact, Scripture reveals that even Jesus was allowed to experience suffering, in order that He might fulfill His divine purpose here on earth. Hebrews 5:8-9 (NIV) says: "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him." Notice that it doesn't say that Jesus learned bitterness and resentment from His suffering, but He learned obedience instead. Each time that we experience testing times, we have to decide how we will respond. Those who humble themselves before the Lord, and seek to learn what it is He might want to teach them, will be rewarded in the end by a grateful God. One of these rewards will be spiritual growth and maturity. This Scripture says that Christ's suffering made Him "perfect." The Amplified version says it made Him "perfectly equipped." And the Message Bible uses the word, "maturity." We are never going to experience the fullness of our God-given purpose while we are still spiritual babies. And the fact is that we do more growing and maturing in the hard times, than we do in the good times.

One of the things I love most about God is how He likes to turn our misery into ministry. A friend of mine was telling me the other day how one of her family members was pouring her heart out to her, and questioning God's intentions in letting her experience some painful trials. As a means of encouraging her heart, my friend told her of my husband's long-term unemployment, our oldest son's move across the country, and my husband's recent heart attack, and how the Lord allowed all these adversities, even though I had been serving Him with wholehearted devotion. As I listened to how God was already using my hurts and heartaches to console others, I became filled with an inexpressible joy. I would not have asked the Lord for the suffering I've endured, but neither can I resist thanking Him for how He is using it to touch and change lives. After all, how much of an impact does it make on others if we continue to love and serve God in the good times? But let them see us loving and serving the Lord with all our hearts in the midst of the storms of life, and they will not soon forget it.

We may not always understand how God operates, but those of us who have put our faith in Him know deep in our hearts that He is a good God, and He deserves our trust. Those who are able to rise above their own questions will experience the peace, joy, and contentment that Scripture promises. Today, lay hold of this divine guarantee that is yours in Christ: "[MOST] blessed is the man who believes in, trusts in, and relies on the Lord, and whose hope and confidence the Lord is"! (Jeremiah 17:7 AMP)

Prayer: Lord, whenever I have questions or doubts, help me to take them straight to You. Show me how to experience Your love and concern, even in the midst of adversity. Thank You that You can, and will, bring great good out of my hurt and heartache--for myself and for others! (Romans 8:28)

- J. M. Farro


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