After over forty years of teaching that God is love and we are sinners in need of the redemption of a loving God, I have come to realize that I have missed a very important aspect of the content in my teaching. As I was reading one of the devotionals by Paul David Tripp in his devotional book, New Morning Mercies, I stumbled upon a profound truth that is woven throughout the pages of the Bible. It is the dark black outline of every character, every situation, and every truth painted throughout the entire Bible. Beyond being a book of facts, people, events, and doctrine, the Bible is book that paints for us a very clear picture of the glory of suffering.
Take any story in the Bible and ask yourself the following questions as you prepare to teach it. In this situation, or in this person’s life what does love look like? As this person followed God, what did love feel like for them? In this story, how does God paint for us a picture of what safety really looks like for the one following and obeying His ways? What did safety feel like for them? In this situation, how does God’s good generous loving hand of mercy leave His fingerprints on their lives? What did this person have to go through and get to the other side of, in order to be confronted with the glory of God’s love? His mercy? His grace? His goodness? His holiness? His long suffering? What would they have missed if they had not faced all that suffering? What would we be lacking in our understanding of God if He hadn’t included that story of suffering?
Paul Tripp writes, “If it is anything, the Bible is honest. The blood, guts, and dirt of the fallen world stain its every page. Filled with brutally honest stories of flawed people and marked with stinging analyses of the brokenness of the world, the Bible requires us all to be honest as well.” As I read this in my devotional, I had to ask myself, do I really teach the Bible honestly? How many times do I focus on how God saves the day without first pointing out that He allowed all the circumstances that came in the first place? Suffering is an essential part of our world which God gladly allows us to experience.
Suffering has only two outcomes. It is a river that will not stand still. It moves us to be better or bitter. It hardens our hearts toward God as the angry heart cries out, “What kind of God would allow . . . “ Or it humbles us and shows us our need to better understand Him, ourselves, and our world.
Suffering forces, the determined believer to send our roots deep into His word and causes us to tighten our grip upon His promises. Suffering allows us to grow in how to understand the difference between what is important and what is frivolous pleasure. Suffering develops our faith muscles and motivates us toward the necessary transformation of our minds.
Too many times we teach children to run to God for deliverance from suffering. Let’s not miss the opportunity to teach them to run to God for His grace and mercy to patiently learn in the midst of their suffering all the details of God’s mercy, grace, and love, that can only be seen in the magnificent beauty of the storm.