God's Purpose In Suffering
By Rick Warren
— May 21, 2014
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalms 23:4 NIV).
Did Jesus suffer? Was Jesus sometimes lonely? Was he tempted to be discouraged? Was he misunderstood, maligned and criticized unjustly? The answer to all these questions is “Yes.”
And none of us are exempted from suffering, or loneliness, or discouragement, or unjust criticism—because God is developing within us the character of Christ, and in order to do this, he must take us through all of the circumstances in life that he took Christ through.
This means God is more interested in your character than your comfort, and he's more concerned about your holiness than your happiness. So, the question is not if you'll go through dark times in life, but when you'll go through them.
Now, does this mean God causes tragedies? No. God is good, and he will not cause evil or do evil. But God can use dark and stressful times for good; he'll use them to build a Christ-like character within us.
So, what should you do when you go through difficult times?
Refuse to be discouraged. David said, “I will fear no evil” (Psalms 23:4 NIV). His use of the word will implies a choice, an act of decision. In the final 12 hours of Christ's life, we can clearly see he made a choice to follow God's will; He made a choice to face down fear; he made a choice to ignore despair.
Remember God is with you. David said, “For you are with me” (Psalms 23:4 NIV). God not only promises his power; he promises his presence. We will never go through a dark day alone. Jesus knew he wasn't alone as he walked out his Passion.
Rely on God’s protection and guidance. David said in Psalm 23:4 that God's rod and staff comforted him. The rod and staff were basic tools a shepherd used to protect and guide the sheep. God will be with you, and he'll protect and guide you. Jesus could have called down 10,000 angels; he could have called his disciples to arms; instead he relied on God to protect and guide Him.
We all go through difficult times. The difference for those who believe in Jesus is not the absence of the shadow but the presence of the Light.
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