Life is full of problems. We all experience suffering, face obstacles, or struggle with weaknesses at times. God allows such things to happen; in fact, He more or less promises that we will have troubles in this life (John 16:33).
But why? Why would a good God allow suffering and struggles? He can move mountains (Matthew 17:20), so why doesn’t He remove the obstacles from your path?
The short answer is that God is at work in the midst of your problems. God makes all things—including the hard things—work together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
Here is how God can work through your suffering, obstacles, and weaknesses:
Suffering Can Shape You and Give You a Message to Share
God is not indifferent to our suffering. In fact, He has chosen to fully experience the pain of suffering Himself. Jesus, who lived a perfect life, suffered more than any of us when He was crucified on the cross and experienced separation from His Father (Matthew 27:46). So why did He suffer? It was God’s will for Him (Matthew 26:39) in order to accomplish the greater good of saving the world (John 3:16).
None of us are going to save the world, but God can still use your suffering for His good purposes (Genesis 50:20). Sometimes, that purpose is to shape you and make you more like Christ (Romans 5:3-5; 1 Peter 1:6-7). Sometimes, the purpose is to equip you to help others; to provide them hope and comfort (2 Corinthians 1:4) by sharing our own story. God can turn your mess into your message, as the saying goes.
Nobody likes to suffer, but God can do so much good with it that we can be joyful about our trials (James 1:2-4). And we can rest knowing that it is not worth comparing to the glory that God has in store for us (Romans 8:18).
Obstacles Can Put You on the Right Path
Roadblocks and closed doors can be frustrating, especially when they are keeping you from the path that you think God would want you to take.
God certainly could remove that obstacle in your path if He wanted to. So, when He chooses to leave it there, He must have a good reason. We might not be able to see the reason ourselves, because we can’t predict the future or know what problems would have been caused by going down that road. However, we can trust that God does know everything and that the obstacle fits within His will (James 4:13-15).
With the hindsight of history, we can sometimes see how obstacles have been used for good. For example, the Apostle Paul was arrested and left in jail for years without a trial (Acts 24:27). Since he was a travelling missionary, being stuck in jail probably felt like a hindrance to the work God wanted him to do. However, being in jail gave him the opportunity to share the gospel with important people (Acts 26; Philippians 1:12-14). It caused him to write letters that we can read today as part of the New Testament. And it resulted in him being shipped to Rome, overcoming previous obstacles that had prevented him from visiting there (Romans 15:22).
Sometimes God chooses not to move an obstacle, and sometimes He intentionally places the obstacle in your path. That also happened to Paul, when the Holy Spirit prevented him from going to some areas so that he could share the gospel elsewhere (Acts 16:6-10). And Jesus Himself provided an obstacle when He told the Gerasene demoniac—a man from whom Jesus had exorcised a whole legion of demons—not to follow Him. Instead, Jesus told the man to “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” That God-given roadblock resulted in many more people hearing and believing in the power of Jesus (Mark 5:18-20).
Weakness Can Be a Strength
We all have sin struggles (Romans 3:23), and we all therefore need Jesus. Our ongoing weaknesses can remind us of that, just like Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” kept him from becoming proud (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Such weaknesses ensure that we daily depend on Christ instead of thinking that we are good enough on our own.
When we trust in Christ, we are saved from the penalty of sin (Romans 6:23), but we are not yet removed from the presence of sin. By no means should we willfully go on sinning or be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:1-22). But sanctification, or putting sin to death in our lives, is a process that won’t be fully completed until God makes us perfect in heaven. So, while we still struggle with temptations, the presence of those weaknesses constantly reminds us of our need for Jesus.
Our weaknesses also help us connect with others and share the gospel with them. We can identify with their weaknesses and talk about how everyone, ourselves included, need Christ to rescue us from sin. Your sin can become a way to talk about your Savior.
S.O.W. the Seeds of the Gospel
Your suffering, obstacles, and weaknesses can all be used by God to spread the gospel. Jesus compared sharing the gospel to sowing seeds (Mark 4:1-20). When facing suffering, obstacles, or weaknesses, you can use the initials of those words—S.O.W.—to remind you to look for ways those trials can be used to sow the seeds of the gospel.
If you find yourself suffering from the consequences of your own actions, unable to move beyond a past hurt, or still in slavery to sin, we encourage you to check out re:generation and experience how God can turn your mess into your message.
This article is based on a message by John Elmore, which you can listen to here.