Today, guest blogger Stephanie Van Gorden ministers to us on the topic of suffering. Stephanie is a regular contributor to the blog. She and her husband Matt make their home in beautiful Colorado. 
second chapter of Cynthia Heald’s Bible study, Becoming a Woman of Excellence, lays out the argument for having
such a goal. So it focuses on God’s character, specifically His love,
sovereignty, and provision. One particularly helpful exercise, based on
particular Scriptures she suggests, asks the student to write a paragraph
giving a Scriptural view of suffering.
Let me
be clear: Matt and I don’t suffer terribly. In fact, when
comparing ourselves to others, we barely suffer at all. God has given us a
great life—an abundant life. Are there
things we’d like to change? Sure. We’d love to be through with this particular
adoption process, but God is enough while we wait. I’d love to be healthy and
feel normal again, but God is enough if He continues to allow this particular
weakness in my life to manifest His glory. We’d love to minister to perfect
people (like us, of course…um…) who are already mature and never complain,
gossip, criticize, balk at serving, or insist on their own way. But God is
enough since we are none of us perfect, we’re all experiencing the humanly
difficult process of becoming like Christ, and since we all complain, gossip,
criticize, balk at serving, and insist on our own way—some of us more than
others, but none of us blameless.
So we
don’t really suffer outside the normal realm of the kind of suffering everyone
experiences. We’re not special. This exercise was especially helpful, though,
because I feel like this has been The Lesson I Most Need To Learn over the course
of my adult life.
this distillation of only a few passages that give direction and comfort will
be helpful to you, as it was to me:
to Scripture…affliction is good (Psalm 119:71) because it
accomplishes God’s purpose.
to Scripture…God’s purpose in allowing trial in our lives is manifold:
sometimes He wants to teach us something (Psalm 119:71; 2 Corinthians
12:7), sometimes He wants to strengthen our testimony to a blind, lost, and
dying world (John 9:1-3; 2 Corinthians 4:7, 10). Sometimes it’s
a consequence of sin, but that’s not a given (John 9:1-2). Whatever the
reason we see, His purpose is always to do us good (2 Corinthians
4:16-17) and to manifest His glory (His character) in our lives and to the
world (John 9:3; 2 Corinthians 4:6-7, 12:9-10).
to Scripture…God’s character doesn’t change when He allows us to experience
trial and sorrow: He is always righteous and faithful (Psalm 119:75);
steadfast, loving, and comforting (Psalm 119:76), and gracious (2 Corinthians
12:9). He “keeps His eye on the clock and His hand on the thermostat,” as
Wiersbe says,
never allowing the trial to go beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians
10:13), maintaining control on its scope at all times (2 Corinthians
4:8-9). His sovereignty is never challenged, even when He allows Satan to get
in on what’s going on (Psalm 115:3; Isaiah 46:9-10; 2
Corinthians 12:7-9).
all this, I can rejoice in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk
3:17-19) even when experiencing deep trial, because I know that He is
sovereignly working to bring about peace (John 16:33), encouragement, and
good (Psalm 119:71; Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28-29) in my
life, and to glorify Himself. He cannot glorify Himself if He allows me—His
creation and His child in Christ—to fall (Psalm 37:23-24). I can rejoice
because He holds me in the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:15-16; John
10:28-30), He is God, and He will never fail (Psalm