Written September 25, 2023 Posted Monday, September 25, 2023 12:01pm
How God Uses Suffering to Build Our Character. Title of a chapter from Randy Alcorn’s amazing book, If God is Good – Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil
I read a lot of non-fiction. I want to read books that will help me make it through this life.
On Thursday morning around 7:00am, September 21, 2023, our crying daughter phoned us to give us some terrible news. Something happened in her life. What I will tell you is it has nothing to do with health. Which is good because she has epilepsy. The news is personal and it is terrible. I respect our relationship to keep the news quiet. For all I care, she can scream the news from the rooftop.
I thought I would share with you what and how I use my reading to help me and our daughter.
Here are several highlights from How God Uses Suffering to Build Our Character.
GRATITUDE AND HUMILITY
It seems counterintuitive to give thanks in suffering, but God commands it and countless people have benefited from it. Puritan paster Richard Baxter wrote, “Resolve to spend most of your time in thanksgiving and praising God. If you cannot do it with the joy that you should, yet do it as you can…Doing it as you can is the way to be able to do it better. Thanksgiving stirreth up thankfulness in the heart.”
God uses suffering to make us thankful. During the Civil War, in a time of great national suffering, Abraham Lincoln called upon the nation to come to God in thanksgiving.
Once in God’s presence, we’ll find it staggering how little gratitude we’ll find in the Shadowlands expressed for the vastness of God’s goodness and grace.
Suffering cultivates humility. Happy are the humble! Humility begins with recognition of our own evil. When speaking of the human condition, we generalize easily: “All people are sinners.” We even admit, “I am a sinner.” Yet we excel as exception-finders: “What I did just looked bad; I had a good reason for doing it. Let me explain…” The question is, will we trade our rationalizations for His scars – wounds that should have been inflicted upon you and me?
Suffering can get our attention and lead us to repentance and transformation. C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is HIS megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Suffering exposes idols in our lives. God reminds us, “the earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). What we think belongs to us really doesn’t: “The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the LORD Almighty” (Haggai 2:8). We don’t even belong to ourselves: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Suffering draws independent people to faith and teaches them dependence on Christ.
Suffering shows us who we are so we can see what we need to become.
Faithful endurance build Christlikeness.
The evils and suffering we face are steep hills that increase our spiritual lung capacity; resistance builds our endurance. Lets’ be honest: virtually everyone who as suffered little in life is shallow, unmotivated, self-absorbed, and lacking in character (me: so they are suffering from ‘arrested development;’ they are children). You know it and so do I. And yet we do everything we can to avoid challenges, both to our children and to ourselves. If we succeed in our avoidance, we’ll develop in ourselves and our children the sort of character we least admire.
God uses disappointments and suffering to train us to share his holiness and righteousness.
Suffering can make us less fearful. In my (Randy Alcorn) novel Safely Home, set in China, Li Quan voices what some Chinese Christians actually say: True gold does not fear the fire.
Now what do we do with this information? We put it into practice. The next time you and I are tested by something that is hurtful, look to books such as this one and see how you can make it work for you and me. We have the power to choose. Everything written in this book will come down to our choice(s). I pray and hope my daughter will understand the suffering she is experiencing today and probably for many weeks to come is meant to help build her character. Strengthen her relationship with God. Eventually mom and I are going to die. She needs to know that God sent His Son to die on the cross for her sins and frankly for the people who sin against her. I have tremendous faith and confidence in Katy’s ability to grow from this tragedy.
To paraphrase the end of this chapter for Katy. Katy will come through this with an absolute confidence in God. Katy knows He will walk with her through the rest of her life. Katy is going through the valley of epilepsy and this tragedy, and He is with Katy. Because He’s been faithful in all Katy has gone through, Katy has less to be afraid of now.
YOU CAN DO IT, KATY!