Did you hear about the teenager who found a snake slithering out of her bathtub drain? Trin, a seventeen-year-old from Baltimore, shared footage of the encounter on TikTok, where it has been viewed over 2.6 million times.
The tiny snake was emerging from the drain, so she turned on the water. However, it then began slithering up the side of the tub as Trin let out a scream. She ran to her mother for help, who called a local maintenance man, who killed the snake.
The snake would have been there whether Trin was there or not. Her presence and TikTok video only revealed the reality that already existed.
In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis reflected on his personal sins and his attempts to justify them: “The excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself.” But then he noted, “Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth?”
He explained: “If there are rats in the cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats; it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar; but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.”
In my Daily Articles for the week of July 18, 2022, I focused on ways to trust God in challenging times. Today, I’d like to add this factor: God redeems our suffering by using it to grow us in ways we could not grow otherwise. As Walt Disney noted, difficulties make some people bitter and others better.
Let’s choose the latter, to the glory of God.
God uses suffering to grow his saints
One approach to the problem of evil and suffering is the “soul building model” of Irenaeus: God uses challenges to draw us to repentance if necessary. Here’s an example: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word” (Ps 119:67).
A second reason is to teach us spiritual truth: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (v. 71). Now the psalmist can testify, “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (v. 72).
David said of God, “Sing praises to the Lᴏʀᴅ, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:4–5).
Weeping may come, but joy is promised. It is as inevitable as the morning. If I can wait through the dark, I will see the light—always. In fact, I will recognize and appreciate the light more if I have been in the dark.
C. S. Lewis called pain “God’s megaphone.” It not only gets our attention—it announces that which comes afterward. As the pain of birth leads to life, so the pain of death leads to life eternal.
When hard times come, let’s respond with the words of Samuel: “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10 NASB).
God uses suffering to glorify himself
Paul exhorted us, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Charles Spurgeon similarly declared, “God’s great design in all his works is the manifestation of his own glory. Any aim less than this were unworthy of himself.”
However, fallen people seek our own honor and trust too highly in our own powers. As a result, Spurgeon continued, “Self must stand out of the way, that there be room for God to be exalted; and this is the reason why he bringeth his people ofttimes into straits and difficulties, that, being made conscious of their own folly and weakness, they may be fitted to behold the majesty of God when he comes forth to work their deliverance.”
He explained further: “He whose life is one even and smooth path will see but little of the glory of the Lord, for he has few occasions of self-emptying and hence but little fitness for being filled with the revelation of God.” By contrast, “Among the huge Atlantic-waves of bereavement, poverty, temptation, and reproach, we learn the power of Jehovah, because we feel the littleness of man.”
Spurgeon concluded: “Thank God, then, if you have been led by a rough road: it is this which has given you your experience of God’s greatness and lovingkindness. Your troubles have enriched you with a wealth of knowledge to be gained by no other means: your trials have been the cleft of the rock in which Jehovah has set you, as he did his servant Moses, that you might behold his glory as it passed by.
“Praise God that you have not been left to the darkness and ignorance which continued prosperity might have involved, but that in the great fight of affliction, you have been capacitated for the outshinings of his glory in his wonderful dealings with you.”
What “great fight of affliction” are you fighting today?