What Is God “Teaching” Through Pain and Suffering?

Image by Jessi Lynn

imkwonjihye asked a question:

Hi pastor j.s! I think you may cover this in your new book, but still wanted to ask, does God aim to teach us something when we go through difficult circumstances or is it to bring us to him? Often times I feel like I have to justify my suffering and get something out of it, just so I don’t go crazy at the reason for it all. At the same time, constantly justifying suffering leaves me in a state of battle, instead of just being (?) I don’t know if I’m making sense. What does God want me to do…

Hello dear friend, this is very much covered in my newest book about persevering through pain, which you can find here.

The main crux of the book is that I don’t believe pain always has a lesson. In other words, I think it’s unfair to connect the dots to some epiphany on every instance of pain. When a preacher says, “God is using this for your good” or “God has an amazing plan for your life,” it can be very cruel and degrading to an actual suffering person.  This only works in the quiet suburban stillness of a privileged gated community. It hardly works for cancer, a car accident, or a dilapidated third world village.

Certainly, pain can bring us towards God. It can be sublimated for strength and wisdom and deeper friendships. But I don’t know if God is using it for those things. Pain is part of a fractured, fallen world. God is not some cold teacher who waits for us to “get it.” I believe He grieves with us, and there’s no bigger evidence of this than the sending of His Son.

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