How can I turn suffering into something positive?
Often we can’t control difficult circumstances but there are ways to change our perspective and responses, which can help transform suffering into something positive.
Here are some perspectives to help transform suffering.
Everyone suffers. When trouble strikes many ask “Why me?” But it’s not “why me?” Hard times are part of living in a fallen world. The Bible says Adam brought death and suffering into the world when he disobeyed God.
Sickness, accidents, and death are experiences we all face. In that sense we cannot take it personally when we suffer. That’s why Job said, “Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7 NIV).
Both right and wrong choices may result in suffering. Jesus was sinless and made no wrong choices but yet was “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3). In choosing to do God’s will and follow Christ we can expect to experience suffering just as Jesus did. He said “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). The Apostle Peter also wrote to suffering Christians “…do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
When we make wrong choices we will experience suffering as a natural consequence. The book of Proverbs is full of warnings against wrong choices resulting in suffering as a consequence (For example see Proverbs 6).
Suffering is personal. In fact suffering is unique to each of us. As believers we know our wise and loving God allows and directs suffering to accomplish His plans and purposes in our lives. He uses suffering to refine our personal character to be more like Christ.
Here are some responses to help transform suffering.
Don’t compare. Knowing our sufferings are unique means we cannot compare them to what others have experienced. Doing so only leads to arrogance or despair. Knowing they are all in the hand of our good God helps us to respond to suffering with joy and thankfulness (James 1:2-4; Ephesians 5:20).
Claim God’s promises. God has promises for when we are suffering. These promises encourage and help us to persevere (See 2 Corinthians 4:17-18; Hebrews 12:11; 1 Peter 5:9-10). In particular He promises more fruit (John 15:2), righteousness (Hebrews 12:1), hope (Romans 5:3-4), and purer faith (1 Peter 1:6-7). For the next life He promises a reward, “an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Read Scripture by those who have suffered. For centuries believers have identified with Job and his sufferings, the psalmist David and his ordeals, and the Apostle Paul and his afflictions. Their responses to difficulties can give voice to our own heart’s cry for help and aspirations to persevere when we are muted by trials.
Find help from fellow believers. Other Christians can offer us encouragement. We can glean assistance and strength from those who were victorious over their hardships. We can be comforted with the comfort they received from the Lord when they went through their time of suffering (2 Corinthians 1:3-6).
Look to Jesus for grace to help. This is the most essential. “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3). Remember He is praying for us (Hebrews 7:25). He knows and empathizes with our situation and offers mercy and grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
To those who humbly seek Him the Lord offers His abiding presence and the desire and power to respond in a way, which transforms suffering into something positive (2 Corinthians 12:9). By God’s grace weakness, defeat, sorrow, fear, and loss are transformed into strength, victory, joy, courage, and gain.
I hope this helps.