“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” 2 Corinthians 12:7.
Sometimes it is difficult to remember that God has a purpose in our suffering. Even when we do remember this truth, it doesn’t make us hurt any less. Keeping an eternal perspective, however, does lead to contentment in all circumstances. A heart fixed on Jesus will result in unexplainable joy, gratitude, and peace wherever life takes us.
We do have examples in the Bible of men and women who managed to focus their eyes and hearts heavenward in the midst of terrible suffering. One of the ways I believe they were able to shift their gaze from the temporary to the eternal was by choosing to see God’s ministry in their suffering. God is not obligated to answer all of our questions. However, often if we earnestly seek Him, He will reveal a deeper purpose for suffering.
You don’t have to read the New Testament long before you see God’s incredible favor and blessing on the Apostle Paul. His writings contain some of the most incredible revelations about Jesus Christ that have ever or will ever exist. But God knew that it would be easy for Paul to become arrogant and prideful in his ministry, so He allowed and refused to remove a tormenting “thorn” in Paul’s life. Paul wrote that he asked God to remove his suffering three times. But God had a greater plan and left it there.
King Hezekiah is another example of someone who came to understand God’s ministry in suffering. In Isaiah 38, he became very sick. In this case, God answered Hezekiah’s prayers for healing and added 15 more years to his life. Hezekiah said that it was for his benefit that he suffered as he did, and that a result of the anguish of his soul, he would walk humbly for the rest of his life.
Both of these men were greatly esteemed by God... and it seems their suffering is connected to their ministry. Scripture teaches that God exalts the humble, and that pride comes before destruction. The suffering in both of their lives led to greater humility and dependency on God. Temporary suffering in exchange for eternal glory–that is God’s ministry to you during suffering. But you must choose to see His greater plan.
Father, I am thankful that Your work in me is not limited to this life. Even when things don’t seem to make sense now, I can trust that Your plan is greater than my mind can conceive. Help me to remember this when I suffer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.