The Mystery of Good/Hard
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10
After a challenging couple of years, our family is enjoying a bit of a “breather” from significant hardship. Typing that sentence feels like an invitation for another season of suffering but the truth is, for now, we are truly grateful for a moment to feel like we aren’t hanging on by a thread. I’m aware our circumstances could change at any point but the Lord is sovereign over every season. I don’t want to be afraid to rejoice in the respite and God’s faithfulness.
I have come to realize that every one of us is either smack dab in the middle of something hard, coming out of something hard or preparing to head into something hard. In between those faith-building opportunities, we sometimes get a chance to breathe and reflect and rest. And the truth is there are many people who are living in the chronically hard—the difficult marriage, the chronic illness, the financial hardship that doesn’t seem to let up. Sometimes the hard things ebb and flow and other times it seems like a steady stream of pain.
The paradox of the Christian life is that the pain God allows in our lives produces something good. We don’t like hearing that because our default is to try very hard to live pain-free. I was struck recently by a quote from Mary Jo Sharp, apologist and author. She says, “We must stop insulating ourselves from the ‘good pain’ of maturing in Christ.” I really resonate with “good pain.” Do you?
Sometimes when we are in the middle of a struggle it is very difficult to see the good that can come from it, but let me challenge you to think back over what the Lord has accomplished in your life BECAUSE of pain. Think of how you have changed, how He has grown you in certain areas, or how you have been able to minister to others in the same or similar situations. I can attest to being much more empathetic because of what I have been through. Coming from someone who is not naturally full of mercy, I can only attribute that change to a work of God in my life. There are many other blessings I could list, not to mention the way these things have shaped my view of God and the preciousness of the Word of God in my life today.
My favorite devotional is an old classic called Streams in the Desert complied by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. In the December 10th entry we read, “…Suffering is rough and hard to bear; but it hides beneath it discipline, education, possibilities, which not only leave us nobler, but perfect to help others. Do not fret, or set your teeth, or wait doggedly for the suffering to pass; but get out of it all you can, both for yourself and for your service to your generation, according to the will of God.”
What a wonderful exhortation to “get out of it all you can.” I believe we accomplish this by recognizing the good that can come from the hard, even when it is not immediately evident how the Lord will use it. The fact that the Lord can use the hard things in my life to accomplish his purposes in my generation also encourages me to press on. God never wastes our pain.
I don’t know what you are facing today and if you are smack in the middle of hard. The women’s personal stories in the collection on this site share how God brought good from a time of suffering; for instance I pray you are encouraged by Bunmi’s Story, Rotating 180 Degrees. I also pray that the Lord will give you a glimpse of the good He is accomplishing in you through hard times, for His glory.