What are some of the purposes of adversity and suffering?
Before we check with the Bible on the purposes, we need to remind ourselves that:
If we did not have suffering, we would never learn compassion
If we did not have hopelessness, we would never learn faith
If we did not have delay, we would never learn patience
If we did not have struggle, we would never learn resilience
If we did not have adversity, we would never learn strength
If we did not have resistance, we would never learn perseverance
Some of the purposes of suffering and adversity that the Bible indicated are:
a) They produce perseverance, character and maturity, “We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”(Romans 5:3-5 NKJV) Think about it: a person who always gets what he wants has little chance to learn perseverance or patience. Suffering could be one of the tools to help him with these good qualities.
b) They produce endurance and experience, “My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4 TEV)
c) They produce hope, “From such terrible dangers of death He saved us, and will save us; and we have placed our hope in Him that He will save us again.”(2 Corinthians 1:10 TEV) “Let your hope keep you joyful, patient in your troubles,”(Romans 12:12 TEV). Our hope is based on the real presence of God’s healing Spirit in the midst of our suffering. Our suffering will, hopefully, turn us round to come in closer touch with the presence of God in our lives.
d) They produce a change in the direction of our spiritual lives, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”(Hebrews 12:11 NKJV) We do not rejoice in the fact that we are suffering, but in our confidence that the pain can be transformed into an opportunity for our spiritual growth.
Often, the ultimate goal of adversity is to increase our level of trust in God. It is also an opportunity for our spiritual growth in the time we spend struggling through the throes of pain and suffering. When we trust God, God gives us the hope and courage to look our suffering in the face and to go through the suffering confidently with a renew spirit and heart.