Proverbs 20:30 says, “Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes (blows, strokes, beatings) the inner depths of the heart.” The Today’s English Version reads this way: “Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.” To verify the truth of this passage, one needs look no further than Israel of old—especially in the Book of Judges. Time after time, God’s chosen people observed the oft repeated cycle of rest, rebellion, retribution, repentance and restoration.
After a period of living in obedience to God, Israel would again become complacent, do evil in the sight of the Lord, forsake Him and serve false gods. This sinful condition could last many years. To get their attention, God would have no choice but to allow them to be conquered by their enemies and exist in a sorrowful state of brutal bondage and severe oppression. God used this pain and suffering to cause the children of Israel to turn back to Him. Having exhausted all of their options, with nowhere else to turn, they finally turned to God.
Yes, sometimes God uses pain and suffering to reprimand, reprove and rebuke his erring children. God disciplines us because, like Israel, we often go astray and need to be brought back to our senses and return to Him. Therefore, “do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him” (Heb 12:5).
However, pain and suffering in one’s life does not always imply sin, disobedience or wrong-doing. This is true in some cases, but not all. The three friends of Job made the mistake of attributing his misery and misfortune to some unconfessed sin. Sometimes, God allows adversity, pain and suffering into our lives in order to refine, purify, and perfect our faith.
“Though now, for a little while, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:6-7). Adversity, pain and suffering are often used by God to prove that our faith is real.
After all, the Author of our salvation was made perfect through sufferings (Heb 2:10), and “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb 5:8). Jesus taught, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Mt 10:24). If it was necessary for our Lord to suffer in order for Him to fulfill God’s purpose, then it is necessary for us to suffer also.
Adversity, pain and suffering cause us to mature in Christ and serves to strengthen our faith (Rom 5:3-5; Jas 1:2-4). So, “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy! (1 Pet 4:13).