All manner of sickness and suffering have infiltrated our world because of sin and, in all honesty, that answer given in Part 2 to the “why?” question doesn’t really make me feel any better. Even though I know I am a sinner, autism in my son feels like a punishment that doesn’t fit the crime. But one look at my beautiful, precious son and I backtrack. My son is not a punishment. He is not a burden. He is not afflicted or cursed. He is a beloved child that God has used in countless lives. It is a picture of His heart that He uses a plain “jar of clay” to carry and display His treasures.
Nonetheless, at times my response to talk of good birthed from suffering is a furrow of the brow. It is a difficult pill to swallow. But as soon as I question God, I am reminded that God hasn’t asked anything of us that He hasn’t done Himself. “For Christ also suffered once for sins” for the good purpose of bringing us to God. Paul goes on to give us our response: “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” When we choose to surrender to God and allow His will in our lives, thorns and all, our suffering can be purposeful. It can show the power of God that gives us the strength to say, “No matter what, I am loved. No matter what, God is good.”
I personally believe that while we are so quick to categorize pain as a negative, God views it as our opportunity. It is an opportunity to have our character tested and refined. It is an opportunity to live by faith. It is an opportunity to see God redeem and restore a situation we felt impossible. It is an opportunity to experience deep gratitude and joy over even the smallest victories. It is an opportunity to develop compassion for the plight of others. It is an opportunity to influence others and draw them to Christ. It is an opportunity to love with an unworldly, grace-filled love. The opportunities associated with pain that we fear and flee from are endless…if we accept the opportunity.