Truth in Our Trials

Truth about suffering is not always easy to come by. Why do human beings suffer? If God is loving and merciful, why does He not act to prevent human pain?

Here is an outlines study you will find helpful in thinking through the Bible’s perspective on human suffering. It contains a dozen basic principles to keep in mind, plus 35 different things God can accomplish through suffering. Not all will fit each situation, but all are part of the legitimate purposes of God. (Even as I typed out this material I thought of other verses which might be used. Add your own, to increase the value of the study.)

Some Basic Principles

1) All creation was corrupted as a result of man’s first sin (Gen. 1:31; 3:13-19; Rom. 8:22).

2) Sin brings personal suffering (Prov. 11:19; Jas. 1:15).

3) Sin can be the indirect cause of suffering (that is, our suffering may not directly relate to our own sins, Jn. 9:1-3).

4) God is neither unloving nor unjust in allowing suffering (Ezek. 18:32; Gen. 18:25; Heb. 4:15.

5) God allows trials for our good and blessing (Ps. 33:5; Rom. 8:28).

6) God is glorified through the sufferings of human beings (Ps. 104:24, 31; Rev. 7:9-17).

7) God is sovereign over all (Exod. 4:11; Phil. 1:29; I Pet. 4:19).

8) Human suffering is relative (what is less painful for one, may cause great pain for another, II Cor. 10:12).

9) The significance of our trials is not always evident (Isa. 55:8-9; Jn. 20:29).

10) Suggesting benefits of suffering may not comfort or satisfy the sufferer (at least in the short term, Job 12:1-3; 26:14; Rom. 12:15).

11) Trials are inevitable this side of heaven (Job 5:7; 14:1; Ecc. 2:23; Rom. 8:18; Rev. 21:4).

12) We study suffering in order to reaffirm the goodness of God (Job 1:21; Mk. 7:37; Rom. 9:13-14).

Here is truth about suffering from the Bible. These can be roughly divided into five categories. Five areas in which God works to teach and train us, five areas of “Truth in our Trials.”

A. Truth About Sin and Satan. Trials can...

1) Reveal the true character of Satan (II Cor. 11:14; Jn. 8:44; I Pet. 5:8)

2) Demonstrate the rebellious spirit of the world (I Jn. 5:19; Jn. 15:18-21; I Pet. 3:16)

3) Be an evidence of personal sin (Num. 32:23; Gal. 6:7)

4) Be an object lesson teaching the harmfulness of sin (Prov. 6:27-29)

5) Be a foretaste of eternal torment (II Pet. 3:4-10)

6) Be a chastening for personal sin (I Cor. 11:28-32; Heb. 12:6-11; Prov. 15:31)

7) Help to prevent sinning in the future (II Cor. 12:7).

B. Truth About Values and Priorities. Trials can...

1) Help us to appreciate present blessings (Acts 3:8; Ps. 90:14-15)

2) Keep us from growing satisfied with this passing world (I Cor. 7:29-31)

3) Teach us about the cost of redemption (Jn. 15:13; I Cor. 15:3)

4) Awaken a God-consciousness in our souls (Ps. 107:1-31)

5) Demonstrate the folly of trying to live independently of God (Rom. 7:18; II Cor. 3:5; 12:9)

6) Prompt us to count the cost of following Christ (Acts 5:10-13; Heb. 11:25-26)

7) Stir in us a longing for God and His best (Ps. 42:1-3; Phil. 1:23; Rev. 22:20)

C. Truth About God. Trials can...

1) Be a reminder of the sovereignty of God (Job 38:4; Rom. 9:18-21; Ecc. 7:14; Ps. 119:75)

2) Reveal the faithfulness of God (Isa. 59:19; II Cor. 9:12; Rom. 5:3-5)

3) Provide opportunities for a display of God’s power (Jn. 9:3; 11:4, 15)

4) Be an evidence of God’s grace and mercy (II Pet. 3:9; Matt. 23:37)

5) Assure us of God’s unfailing love (Heb. 12:6, 10)

6) Provide lessons for the angels to the glory of God (Job 1:9; 2:4-5; Eph. 3:10)

7) Give us a new appreciation of the sufferings of Christ (I Pet. 3:18; Jn. 17:5; also 1:11; 8:29–compare Mk. 15:34; Jn. 10:17-18; Phil. 3:10)

D. Truth About Spiritual Growth. Trials can...

1) Reveal wrong attitudes and harmful habits (Ps. 32:3-5; I Tim. 4:10, 16)

2) Prompt us to take the responsibility to change (Ps. 119:71; also see Jonah’s experience)

3) Provide evidence of the reality of our faith (I Pet. 1:7; Job 13:15)

4) Awaken us to the practical application of Scripture (Ps. 119:92)

5) Be God’s instrument to develop in us the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23; Jas. 1:2-4)

6) Build steadiness and stability of character (I Pet. 5:10)

7) Be an indicator of commitment to the Lord and of spiritual progress (Acts 5:41; II Tim. 3:12)

E. Truth About Christian Ministry. Trials can...

1) Make us aware of gifts we never knew we had (poss. as Joseph in bondage and in prison; and Peter called from fishing to forsake all and become a fisher of men, Matt. 4:19-20)

2) Be a reminder of the unity of the human family (Isa. 53:6; I Cor. 12:26)

3) Give us opportunities to serve others (Lk. 10:30-37)

4) Increase the breadth and effectiveness of our ministry (II Cor. 1:3-4; 4:8-12)

5) Strengthen the bonds of fellowship and love among believers (Acts 4:29, 32-34; Heb. 13:3)

6) Give us other means and opportunities to glorify God (I Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Phil. 1:20; Heb. 13:15; I Pet. 4:14, 16)

7) Provide us with an opportunity to earn the sufferer’s crown (I Cor. 3:14; II Cor. 4:17; Jas. 1:12; Rev. 2:10; Matt. 5:10-12)

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