Our Suffering is for God’s Glory
God’s ultimate purpose in our suffering is to cause us to more fully worship Him, to better appreciate His wonderful attributes, and to desire Him above everything else. God prioritizes our acknowledgement of His superior power, love and goodness ahead of anything else in the universe, including our own comfort.
Some argue that God could not possibly desire for us to experience such significant suffering as the death of a child. The implicit assumption with this argument is that God sees the universe exactly as we do. In other words, under this misguided notion, our perception of the greatest “good” that could come from a particular situation is also God’s greatest “good.” As noted by Randy Alcorn, a child often fails to see the good that is accomplished when parents discipline their child. From the child’s standpoint, the parent does not seem to be working for his or her greatest good. Just as children do not have the long-term perspective necessary to see the greater good that can be accomplished through discipline, so also we usually lack God’s perspective when it comes to understanding the purposes behind our own suffering. Randy Alcorn, If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2009).
Particularly in an age of human history where we make much of “human rights,” it seems that the worst thing God could do is take away our “rights” to a safe, comfortable life. But nowhere does the Bible apologize for the suffering that followers of Christ may experience during their earthly lifetimes. Jesus’ encounter with this first-century Palestinian blind man in John 9 underscores the fact that God not allows significant suffering in order to best glorify His own divine attributes. In this encounter from the Gospel of John, we see that God clearly purposed this particular man’s suffering in order to give Jesus this opportunity, at this brief moment in history, to demonstrate God’s glory.
Consider the suffering of the blind man as he lived in blindness in first-century Palestine. He did not benefit from those modern conveniences available to blind men & women. In addition to these daily physical difficulties that must have accompanied his blindness, the man suffered from the social stigma that accompanied blindness in that culture. From his birth, the man was an outcast. He was forced to endure the scorn and ridicule of those who believed that his blindness was a result of sin. And yet, ultimately, the man’s blindness allowed him to encounter, face-to-face, the living God incarnate, and to become His follower.
Throughout scripture, we see God elevating His own glory, even through the significant sufferings of his servants. In the days of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, God brought the nation of Israel through significant sufferings. About this suffering, God tells them, “See I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. Isaiah 48:10. In the early church, the Apostle Paul encouraged the young church by teaching that God’s glory was manifested though how God was transforming them through sufferings. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasingly glory.” 2 Corinthians 3:18. As grieving parents, we can rest in the assurance that our sufferings ultimately have a great and noble purpose: our sufferings bring glory to God.
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