Emerge as Pure Gold
There are no simple answers for suffering — only precious promises.
by STEVE ROGERS
WANT TO TAKE A CRACK at answering a tough question? Why do bad things happen to good people? To make the question more specific and more difficult, try this: Why does God allow bad things to happen to His children when He has the power to prevent them? As long as we are pondering questions that don’t seem to have answers, here are two more: Does God like to see us suffer? Does it please Him when He sees us in pain?
There are no simple answers to questions like these. However, the child of God can find comfort and hope in two of God’s great attributes: First, be assured of His sovereignty. In the midst of tragedy and great suffering, Job acknowledged to the Lord, “I know that you can do anything and no plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
The second attribute to remember is His providence. When God allows suffering to come our way, it can produce godly qualities in us. Therefore, it’s actually something we should look forward to and be excited about.
I saw that eyebrow raised, so don’t take my word for it. I defer to the apostle Peter: “Rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith — more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6–7).
As it turns out, God is in the refining business, and many times right in the fire is where He wants you.
If you have never been to an ore refinery to observe the refining process, here is what happens: The refiner starts with something very valuable yet not usable — a rock that contains precious metal. This piece of ore is then heated in a furnace at extremely high temperatures until the precious metal is separated from the rest of the ore. Impurities known as dross will float to the top where they are then skimmed off.
The Scriptures are filled with references of God’s using the “refiner’s fire” to accomplish His purposes. Isaiah 1:25 says, “I will … burn away your dross completely; I will remove all your impurities.” And we’re told in Malachi 3:3, “He will be like a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify … and refine them like gold and silver.”
Since God’s refining process is so beneficial, should we pray for pain as others sometimes pray for rain? Should we adopt the practice of the ascetics from medieval times, who were convinced God wanted them to live in constant misery?
I think a better mindset would be those of the Puritans who referred to suffering in the life of a believer as God’s “afflictive providence.” Puritan author and theologian John Flavel, who experienced the death of three wives and a son, was able to bear what he referred to as “sanctified afflictions” by placing his faith in both God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness. Flavel wrote: “If afflictions be the way through which you must come to God, then never be discouraged at affliction; troubles and afflictions are of excellent use.”
If you’re experiencing the “various trials” James talks about in his epistle but find yourself struggling with how to “consider it a great joy” (Jas. 1:2), I recommend the following:
Ask God for a proper perspective. Job, after having lost all his possessions, his children, and his health, asked, “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” (Job 2:10). Peter admonishes us, “Don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you, as if something unusual were happening to you” (1 Pet. 4:12).
Set your heart with a future focus. We are promised that soon all suffering will end. Peter encourages us to “rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet. 4:13). And he promises, “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while” (1 Pet. 5:10). Then in Revelation 21:4, we read, “Grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.”
The next time you find yourself in the refiner’s fire, don’t merely endure suffering; embrace it. With a proper perspective and a future focus, you will be able to boldly assert with Job: “When he has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold” (Job 23:10).
STEVE ROGERS is a well-known author, songwriter, and music educator. Along with his father, Adrian Rogers, Steve is the coauthor of four Broadman & Holman releases, including What Every Christian Ought to Know and When We Say Father.