Purpose in Suffering

[1] Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. [2] It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. [3] So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” [4] But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”(John 11:1–4)

During Lent we not only meditate on Jesus’ passion but also apply lessons from Jesus’ passion to our lives. One lesson from Jesus is about suffering. 

American society values happiness and contentment. As such, our culture is averse to discomfort and suffering. It’s difficult to find examples in our society where suffering is considered beneficial or a blessing. 

This is why it’s essential that we learn from Jesus. Everyone mentioned the beginning of John chapter 11 suffered. Lazarus suffered death. Mary and Marth suffered grief and loss. There is no questioning the pain that they all experienced. Yet their pain had purpose: 

First, Lazarus’ death and resurrection foreshadowed Jesus’ death and resurrection.  

Second, Jesus said that God the Father was going to be glorified through the suffering of Lazarus. 

When we suffer, we do well to reflect on whether God is working through our suffering. Is the Lord maturing our faith? (James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5) Is God somehow being glorified?

I am not promoting suffering as a Christian discipline. Not am I suggesting that somehow suffering might make us “super” Christians. I am saying that God can work through our suffering or in response to our suffering. 

(A Second Look devotions are written for the congregations of the Ohio District LCMS.)

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