Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders God Refines Us Through Suffering: 4 Reasons He Ordains Earthly Trials

God Refines Us Through Suffering: 4 Reasons He Ordains Earthly Trials

God refines us through suffering
Adobestock #611032111

It’s one thing to know that God refines us through suffering. It’s another thing to experience those trials and hardships firsthand. Read on for insights about how God works through challenges.

When tragedy strikes—the death of a child, hurricanes, a school shooting—we begin looking for an escape from the pain. Or we clamor for answers from religious “experts” to explain the ever-present question “Why?” We want answers, and we want to believe our suffering isn’t meaningless. We want to know for sure that God refines us through suffering and hardship.

Our culture, unfortunately, strives to deny the reality of suffering and death. And we continually long to drink from the fountain of youth—expressed in our endless pursuit of Botox treatments, anti-aging cream, cosmetic surgeries, and hair dyes. We cloak funerals as “celebrations” and convey the empty promise that all people end up in heaven (except Hitler and Stalin, perhaps).

We cannot handle the harsh reality of suffering. So we hide behind the virtual walls of social media, where we pretend our hearts are safe from rejection, grief, and the evil “out there.” Yet all the while, you and I know it’s there. It’s real, and it’s painful.

Maybe you’re in the throes of affliction or trying to minister to someone who is. One great tragedy of the American church is that we’ve lost a biblical theology of suffering—one that centers on the glory, goodness, and sovereignty of God. We’ve lost an understanding of the reality of suffering as a consequence of the Fall. And we’ve neglected to see how God overrules evil for his greater purposes. God refines us through suffering and uses it to build our faith.

We need to understand this so our feet land on the solid foundation of God’s Word and the God of that Word. There we find understanding and hope. All other ground is sinking sand.

4 Reasons Why God Refines Us Through Suffering

If you’ve trusted in Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can rest in this truth. Your afflictions and sufferings come to you for your ultimate good and God’s ultimate glory.

But let’s look at four specific biblical reasons God ordains suffering for his people and how he refines us through suffering.

1. To Kill Sin and Grow Godliness

God uses suffering to expose the sin that clings so closely to our hearts. When we suddenly bear an affliction, our pride, impatience, and unbelief often surface. Pain has a way of cracking open the heart, laying it bare. When I’ve faced suffering, I’ve responded with anger. Though the suffering itself isn’t evil, it illuminates the evil residing within me. Sometimes it reveals my lack of faith in God’s promises. I begin questioning God: How could you let this happen? 

If we’re prone to love something in this world—house, spouse, children, job—more than God, he may sometimes remove the idol. And it will hurt. But in doing so, he frees us to refocus our primary love on him alone. King David saw a woman bathing, sent for her, slept with her, then had her husband killed. When the prophet Nathan confronted David about his sin, he responded with Psalm 51. Suffering serves as a cleanser, revealing and killing our present sin, and deterring us from greater sin.

God doesn’t just help mortify our sin, though. He also cultivates godliness whereby he conforms us increasingly into Christ’s image. And God uses his church to spur his people on and be the context in which iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). When affliction falls on a community of believers, God knits them together more tightly.

2. To Relinquish the Temporal for the Eternal

God also uses suffering to wean us from a love of this world and to redirect our thoughts and affections toward the eternal. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).

Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give it to the poor. Then, he said, you will have treasure in heaven. The young man went away sorrowful. Sometimes, God will simply remove those treasures for our greater good. It’s better to lose an eye than for your whole body to land in hell (Matthew 5:29).

As Christians, the afflictions we experience in this life should point us to the reality that we’re “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13) here on earth, journeying toward the ultimate city. Our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). This world is not our home, and the afflictions we experience along the way serve as arrows directing us to release what’s fading and grasp what’s unending.

Paul declares that God “comforts us in all our afflictions,” adding, “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). The Lord of true comfort wants us to see our pain as “preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).