Suffering Increases our Capacity to Know God

I have long struggled with the idea that the way of suffering is the only true path to knowing God. That idea implies that God delights in our suffering, that He is working toward our pain! And that is simply not a Biblical concept of God. But unfortunately, popular culture, and even in some cases Christian culture, has argued  adamantly for the reverse of this idea: That God is all about our comfort and enjoyment. Oh, how many times I have heard, “God wants me to be happy, doesn’t he?”!  This idea is no more Biblical than the first. What is true, what we do know from Scripture, is that if we are believers in Jesus Christ,  God is all about our good. (see Romans 8:28-29) The issue we often over look is that in God’s economy our good and our happiness are not one and the same.  God is about the good work of transforming us into the image of His Son. He is about the process of pealing away our sinful desires, our human weaknesses, and replacing them with the beauty of His holiness.

So what we do know for sure is that God is working for our good–forming us into the image of His Son, and the path to holiness is fraught with trials and suffering. God’s Word tells us it is so.

When we allow our pain to propel us towards God, then our desire for God is not a demand for His response; it is the worship of brokenness. Often God does not reveal Himself in the way we long for. Often, the tears flow with even more longing. That is why so many are tempted to take care of themselves, instead of admitting impotence. But utter helplessness is the doorway through which we must step to truly know God. And often the passageway through which we travel is long and dark and lonely. God does not always, or even often, meet us and comfort us in our pain in the immediate way we expect.

At times our desire for God is met with apparent unresponsiveness from God. Our expectations of a real encounter with Him do not transpire. And our longing intensifies. The Psalmist knew this to be true. In chapter 42 he cries out, “As a dear longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God… Day and night I have only tears for food….”  (vv. 1-3 NLT) He felt the frustration of longing for God as the only water that could satiate his soul and yet not finding Him. Again in Psalms 63:1b, he says, “ My soul thirsts for You;  My flesh longs for You. In a dry and thirsty land, where there is no water.”

God is not hiding.

He is allowing our desire for Him to grow, to blossom into an all consuming passion. Our desire for God is a Spirit driven passion. God is the one driving that desire; therefore, He cannot be absent in our longing. He will fulfill it, in His way and His time.

During my era of waiting in between Joel’s arrest and his sentencing, God began to speak into my pain. I longed for relief. My journal filled with cries to God for His interference on our behalf.  But I also longed for His joy. I was beginning to understand that joy in the Lord and deep, ragged emotional pain are not mutually exclusive. Rather, our capacity to know Him, and rejoice in Him alone is amplified by pain. Psalms 84:6 speaks of those who find their strength in the Lord: “When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become place of refreshing springs.”  When we allow God to work in our pain, we find that we can live in joy in the middle of unthinkable circumstances.

Before I knew the kind of pain that is now a part of my daily life, I loved God. I desired to know Him better, and I longed to serve Him. What I did not know, was how much I needed Him. Now, through inexplicable pain, I have come to recognize that neediness, and it has increased my capacity for knowing and loving Him.


One Response to "Suffering Increases our Capacity to Know God"

  • beautiful!!!

    1 Joy said this (July 27, 2011 at 8:52 pm) Reply


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