The value of suffering

(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends, there are many ways in which suffering is inexplicable and there are many times when reflecting on the good of suffering is wildly inappropriate. With those caveats in mind, I wanted to share one of the most interesting insights I heard at the Zacharias Institute’s inaugural Business Leaders Conference this past weekend.

Mike Ducker, President and CEO of FedEx Freight, spoke on Friday night about how God uses suffering for our good. (He shared a very personal story at the end that completely validated his credibility to share on suffering).

He points out that in Genesis 40 and 41, we are told:

Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile…

He paused to reflect on this passage. Joseph is in jail on the basis of a false accusation. He is innocent. Furthermore, before that, he arrived at Potiphar’s house because his own brothers sold him into slavery! In Genesis 40, he is walking in such relationship with God that he is able to accurately interpret the dreams of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker of the king of Egypt! (FWIW, I think this narrative poignantly speaks against the injustice of false imprisonment and is a basis for Christians to be involved in criminal reform movements).

Yet, for God’s purposes, Joseph was left in jail for two more years. Mike suggested that this was God’s plan to further teach Joseph an important lesson: your life is entirely in my hands. You are completely dependent upon me. You have no control over your life and must be fully yielded to my will.

This was the needed preparation for Joseph to save an entire region from a severe, multi-year famine. Apart from such dependence on God, Joseph would not have had the humility and servant-hearted attitude needed for this incredibly high-stakes assignment.

What lessons has God taught you through suffering?

(SeanO) #2

I had the privilege of sitting behind @CarsonWeitnauer at this conference and can echo how powerful Mike Drucker’s testimony was - wow!

In the case of Joseph, God used suffering as the path to success / deliverance for himself and a nation.

In my life, the Biblical example that has helped me the most during times of suffering is that of pregnancy. Like a woman in labor, our suffering is a cry for deliverance (literally) into the glory of the resurrected life. I may not understand why I suffer, but I eagerly await the glory of Christ - the sufferings of this world are nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed!

This portion of Romans 8 from The Message communicates this notion well:

22-25 All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

(Jolene Laughlin) #3

One of the things that has occurred to me is that God is somewhat ruthless when it comes to using pain to teach us the lessons He wants us to learn. In some ways, I find it troubling that there is such a practical and pragmatic aspect to God, but it also falls in line with C.S. Lewis’ idea of God as a surgeon or a dentist. He does hurt us sometimes, but it is for our good, not to harm us. I grapple with that, because he sees eternity and I cannot, and sometimes the pain we experience feels bleak and pointless.

Joseph undoubtedly went through times of despair and doubt sitting in that jail. Like us, he couldn’t see the end from the beginning, but he humbled himself, accepted what God had for him, and kept on being faithful. God used him in a mighty way for a much higher purpose - but in such a way that it broke his pride and humbled him before lifting him up.

And at the end of the day, Joseph’s story wasn’t as much about Joseph as it was about what God accomplished on a bigger scale through Joseph. When, as a fresh faced youth, he interpreted his dreams of ruling over his brothers, he could never have expected the long and painful path God would take him on to get there. It seems God always does the opposite of what we expect.

I once spoke to a woman who was in the process of making a decision that I was very familiar with. One that had appeared to me to be right, but came with very difficult consequences, and one that I wouldn’t have made the same way had I known in advance what I would have to walk through. I shared with her some of my story and she said “Didn’t you pray and ask for God to show you if it was His will? And why would he let you do something, thinking it was his will, and then allow it to turn out so badly?” At the time, I had no answer for her, but a fleeting thought occurred to me, as I walked away. “Because maybe it wasn’t about me. It was about them. What would have happened to others if my decision had been different?” In a way, it was painful to think that God would sacrifice me for the development of others, but I’ve been increasingly convinced that there is truth to that. He calls us to sacrifice ourselves, to be servants. To be humble and yielded, no matter what comes our way. And as hard as it is for us to accept, our comfort in this life is not a tremendous priority for him. We are here to work and the rewards will come later.

@Sean_Oesch those verses are very encouraging, especially worded in that way. Thank you for sharing.

(SeanO) #4

@Jolene_Laughlin Very helpful story - thank you for sharing. It reminded me of Hebrews 12, where it says that Jesus suffered with His eyes fixed on the joy before Him. We can rejoice in our suffering because it is producing an eternal weight of glory when we walk with Christ!

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.