It just seems strange to consider the possibility that struggle in our lives might be a good thing, yet if we look closely at the examples of the lives of believers throughout the Bible we find that without question they all suffered at one time or another. Now at first I think we would all rather not go through our periods of struggling, yet if we take the time to remember our past struggles I think it possible we would find positives that came out of them.
I certainly recall as a teenager coming to the realization that my parents were slowly allowing me to endure personal hardships rather than trying to “fix” things for me as a means to help me mature. I can also remember doing the same thing with my own daughters, as difficult as that was, in order to help them grow. So as I looked at the subject of Christians suffering, I tried to come up with some reasons why a loving God and Father would allow us to struggle at times, rather than smoothing out life's road. What follows are some of the ideas I came up with, and I hope they help a little in understanding why struggling can be good.
We are loved.
For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives."If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?
Hebrews 12:6-7 NKJV
I'm sure no one would argue that allowing us to struggle can certainly be seen as a form of chastening. I can recall certain instances in the lives of all my children where I knew I could fix something, yet held back in order to teach them a lesson. It was very painful for me to do, and it hurt to see them struggle, yet I knew it was for the best and in later years they have thanked me for doing it. God loves us, and takes no pleasure in watching us struggle, yet in His wisdom He knows we need to learn a lesson so He then allows us to learn by enduring.
We are taught.
Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word. You [are] good, and do good; Teach me Your statutes.
Psalm 119:67-68 NKJV
[It is] good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.
Psalm 119:71 NKJV
How often have I looked back and thought about how much easier my life might have been if I had been more “teachable”! I was one of those people who seemed to only learn my lesson the hard way. I wonder if that was the thinking behind these verses? Do you notice the result of the struggles? “Now I keep your word”. How many lessons have you learned and kept because you had to struggle during the teaching of them? I think we call them the “hard” lessons of life? No one I know likes it, but struggles can certainly teach us a lesson we will never forget.
We are judged.
Yet if [anyone suffers] as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time [has come] for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if [it begins] with us first, what will [be] the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
1 Peter 4:16-17 NKJV
Have you ever considered that God allows us to struggle as both a test and as a witness to others? If that seems strange to you, consider how often you have watched someone else struggle and think to yourself how you might react in the same situation. We all have done that, yet we often think to ourselves that no one else knows what we are going through. On the contrary, God uses the struggles we face as both a test for us and also as a witness to others. If we understand this we then can actually look at our struggles as a way to show others the power available to us as believers because we can call on God for the help we need.
We are saved.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen [are] temporary, but the things which are not seen [are] eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NKJV
How easy is it for us to focus on the immediate rather than the future when we struggle. I certainly understand that this is a natural reaction, and I do it as well, yet the advice given to us here by Paul is to fight that tendency and focus rather on our future deliverance and reward in Heaven. Did you notice here that we are told what we endure right now is “light”? I'm sure you and I would agree there are times we would like to argue that point, but the truth is that God will not allow us to struggle in futility. Whatever we are called to deal with here and now is “working for us” in Glory.
No one likes to struggle, yet it seems clear we are called to do so as part of our “job description” as believers. Struggles can be good for both us, and for those around us who watch how we deal with them. If you are struggling now, or when you do in the future, remember that we are promised;
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [His] purpose.
Romans 8:28 NKJV