One of the benefits of suffering is that it drives us to rely on God more.
Humans generally love to be independent. From a young age, children like to do things for themselves. When a mother tries to help a child with his homework, he’ll say ‘I know, I know, I know’, when he doesn’t ‘know! As adults, many won’t accept other people’s ‘charity’, even if they desperately need it.
But it is dangerous to trust in oneself. Proverbs says: ‘He who trusts in himself is a fool’ (Proverbs 28:26).
Why is it foolish to trust yourself? Because as humans we are far weaker than we like to think. Our knowledge and power is actually rather pathetic. So it is not surprising that God graciously brings suffering into our lives to humble our pride. God said through the prophet Jeremiah that those who trust in themselves rather than God will suffer. But those who trust him will prosper. We read: ‘This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit”’ (Jeremiah 17:5-8).
When we experience immense suffering, we realise there are some problems that are completely beyond our capabilities.
This then pushes us to trust in God more deeply than ever before.
The Apostle Paul spoke about how his suffering caused him to rely on God more. When he wrote to the church in Corinth he said: ‘We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many’ (2 Corinthians 1:8-11). Note that Paul says that his suffering happened that he might not rely on himself, but upon God.
So when we suffer, it is always worth asking, ‘What have I been trusting in lately?’ And ‘Who am I going to trust to deliver me from suffering?’ Is it God? Or is it myself? Or another human?
If it’s not God, we should be afraid.
So can you say the following with the Psalmist? ‘Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call’ (Psalm 20:7-9)’