In our previous meditation, we saw that “the God of all grace” wants to develop our lives spiritually. He wants to use His exceedingly abundant grace to “perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle” us. Now, we will examine the useful (though often undesired) suffering that prepares us for this work of grace.
Yes, suffering is often the link between the work God wants to do in us and the abundant grace that He will use to effect the work: “after you have suffered a while.” Even as the perfect, sinless man, the Son of God learned valuable lessons through suffering. “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). He experienced the agonies that may occur as we obey God while dwelling in a rebellious, sinful world. He is the full example of godliness, and we are called to follow Him. “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). If we are willing to walk the path of godliness, we will suffer as well. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Such trials and sufferings are normal and purposeful. “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12). Painful trials seem strange, but they routinely come to test and exercise our faith.
God gives grace to the humble. Trials and suffering humble our hearts and stir us to cry out to the Lord for His necessary grace. This direct link between suffering and grace can be seen in Paul’s most persistent trial of suffering. “Lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me…Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me” (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). Paul’s difficulty moved him to earnestly plead with the Lord for His intervention. The Lord responded by His grace. “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul did not receive the healing grace that he sought. However, he experienced the sustaining grace that God often chooses to impart in times of suffering. Through His grace, God changed Paul’s heart, not his circumstances.