God doesn’t put you through suffering without a goal.
By Josh Daffern
If you’ve ever struggled with trying to find a purpose behind your pain, then you need to read this. Maybe it’s a sickness that has lingered far too long. Perhaps it’s a long-standing medical ailment that will only get worse over time, accompanying you for the rest of your mortal days. Maybe it’s a relationship that’s causing you pain, other family members unable to get a handle on life and you’re left suffering the collateral damage. Perhaps it’s a job that drains you or a boss whose only aim in life is to make you miserable. Or maybe your pain has to do with your faith. God is silent; God is absent; God isn’t answering your prayers.
Pain on some level will always be ever-present in your life, but you don’t need to walk through life struggling to find a purpose behind your pain. One of the reasons Christians look to Scripture for guidance and wisdom is because truth never changes and human nature never changes, so God’s Word written thousands of years ago still applies to us today. In the first century, James started his letter to the early Christians with a reminder about five ways your pain has a purpose, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4, NIV). From these eternal words, here are six ways your pain has a purpose.
You discover your own strength.
When James talks about the trials of life he describes them as a test, but not so God can see how strong you are. God already knows that. Pain is an opportunity not for God to see how strong you are, but for you to see how strong you are. If you wanted to see how much weight you could bench press at the gym, the only way to find that out would be to continue to put on more and more weight until you discovered your threshold, your limit. In the same way, pain is the only way to truly discover how strong you really are. And in Christ, you are much stronger than you think.
Pain expands your endurance.
When you’re tested through the fires of pain, what’s forged on the other side is perseverance, endurance. If you’ve never ran more than a couple of hundred yards in your life, it doesn’t matter how much you would want to, your body couldn’t physically run a marathon tomorrow. It simply doesn’t have the endurance built up. If you’re training to run a marathon for the first time, you don’t start out by running a marathon. You run a mile. And then you run three. And then you run five, and so on. Over time, your body builds up the endurance necessary to handle the herculean task of running a full marathon. In the same way, pain expands your endurance and gives you the herculean ability to persevere through even the most difficult of circumstances. There is no easy way to build up endurance. You simply have to endure something. There is a purpose behind your pain.
Pain matures you.
When perseverance finishes its work you are mature, and maturity helps you see the world differently. A three year old sees the world very differently than a thirty-three year old. When a three year old doesn’t get their way, they’ll pitch a fit and scream, roll on the floor and kick anything in sight. Being a three year old gives you full license to pitch a fit when you don’t get your way. But when you’re thirty-three you see the world differently. You don’t drop on the floor and pitch a fit when things don’t work out for you. Your perspective has changed because you have matured over the years. One of the side benefits of pain is the incredible maturation process that helps anyone who’s ever had to walk through pain for an extended amount of time.
Pain teaches you what pleasure never could.
When James says that perseverance will lead to completeness, he’s referring to a fuller scope and understanding of life that only pain can teach you. Think about two college students and decide which one you think is more prepared for the real world of life. The first college student didn’t have an easy childhood. They had to work for what they wanted, making plenty of mistakes along the way and learning lessons gained only through trial and error. Along the way they developed a resiliency born from their discovery of the strength within them overcome. The second college student has never had to want for anything in her life. Her parents handed everything to her on a silver platter, shielding her from any trials or any pain. If she ever got in trouble, her mother was in the principal’s office the very next day to help her avoid consequences. Which one of the two seems better prepared for the real world? The first one, obviously. Why? Because pain teaches you what pleasure alone never could.
Pain gives you what pleasure never could.
James finishes describing a life of perseverance as one “not lacking anything.” To get everything you need for life, pain is an absolute necessity. Without pain, you would never truly appreciate what hope is. Without pain, you would too easily forget your need for God. Without pain, you would neglect your need for saving and salvation. Pain heightens your senses and gives you a greater awareness of the more important things in life: love, God, family, hope. If you lived a life completely without pain, there would be a void in your life, a void only filled through the experience that pain gives you.
Pain is the price for a greater reward.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to a church that struggled with finding a purpose behind their pain, he wrote timeless words that still ring true today: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17, NIV). The pain of practices, injuries and the grind of a season is all worth it when a team holds up that championship trophy. God sees our pain and has a crown of life waiting in store for those of us who believe.
Find purpose behind your pain.
Whether you’re going through something big or small, pain is an ever-present constant in your life. But you never have to struggle with finding a purpose behind your pain. Take comfort and solace in the timeless words of James 1:2-4, and discover the purpose behind your pain. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4, NIV).
For more inspiring content, check out Radiant Studios’ series An Incomplete Education about a father and daughter attempting to survive after a viral pandemic plagues the world. Despite their circumstances, they ultimately find hope and joy and will inspire you to do the same, no matter what hardships you may be facing today.