At some point in life, many of us find ourselves on a path that we would have never chosen. Once on that path, we are always faced with a choice. We can frantically search for a way out, or embrace the path God has chosen for us.
I have been on one of those undesirable paths for many years, with all its unexpected curves, unlit stretches, and life-changing directions. Even as I write this, I sit in an IV treatment room with a handful of others whom I would never have met had our lives not crossed on the weary road of chronic illness.
All of us in this room, though we have little else in common, share a similar desire to gain healing, as medications and nutrients are pumped into our bodies each day for several weeks. Though our stories and hopes are very different, we all long for something greater.
Pain Paved with Promise
Although the lives of these fellow sufferers run parallel to mine in our battle with chronic illness, at the same time, we are on completely separate paths that lead to different destinations. While both roads are filled with pain and uncertainty, by God’s grace, my own path is paved with promises of a glorious future beyond what I can see. Even more, my Savior is with me, guiding me and offering eternal treasures along the way.
Nevertheless, in the midst of hard trials, it can be hard to see beyond the pain and trust God’s purposes when all we see is darkness ahead. Therefore, as Christians, when we find ourselves on a road we would never have chosen, we need to remember these truths.
1. God has chosen this for your good.
If you are following Christ, while it may not be a path you would’ve chosen, you can trust that he has chosen it for you (1 Corinthians 7:17). Left to ourselves, we would all choose a path of comfort and prosperity because our hearts are rebellious and our vision is short-term. If not for his grace, we would pursue only what our flesh desires, even at the cost of eternal life.
Therefore, when we are tempted to question God’s goodness for allowing pain into our lives, we have to remind ourselves that suffering is part of living in a fallen world and, as believers, while we are not spared from it, we are being purified and sanctified through it. Although we may never understand God’s reasons for allowing pain to afflict us, we can be certain that, in Christ, our suffering is not pointless or just “part of life,” but is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory.
If you are a believer, your tears fall at the foot of the cross. You can trust God will lead you step by step to glory. He says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
2. God will use your suffering to comfort others.
Suffering can easily turn us inward. This is especially tempting when we feel isolated and alone while others seem to be untouched by crushing trials. But as hard as the enemy tries to convince us that we are alone in our suffering, one look at Christ reminds us that the Man of Sorrows has gone before us and that our sovereign God is ultimately working all things together for our good — and the good of those around us — for his glory (Romans 8:28).
When I began treatment, I had hoped to take advantage of the several hours I would have each day to rest, read, and enjoy the unusual moments of quiet. However, I quickly realized that that would not be the case. Listening to the stories of suffering and brokenness in the chairs beside me, the reality struck me that, though I am suffering immensely, I have the hope of the gospel. That means, in Christ, I can be confident that God will be with me and provide all that I need to bring glory to him.
God placed me in a room for seven straight weeks with those who were suffering, lost, and grasping for any reason to keep going — not even realizing they are facing an eternity that is far worse than their earthly pain. Though it was tempting to put in my headphones and tune them out, I had been given a unique opportunity to allow God to use my pain in the lives of those who have intersected with mine in this IV room.
I could either let myself be consumed with my own pain, or trust that God has me in this place, at this time, for his eternal purposes. Each day, God increasingly took my eyes off of my own situation, gave me a love for these strangers, and opened up several opportunities to share the hope of the gospel.
The suffering that God allows into our lives may be the very platform he uses to share the hope of the gospel to the world around us.
3. God paves a winding path to glory.
We serve a God who loves us so much that he led his own Son down a path of inconceivable suffering and death for our salvation. If we are in Christ, that same love only leads us down a path of suffering to give us eternal treasures that far outweigh what we have lost (Ephesians 5:1–2). As Tim Keller said, “God will only give what you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows.”
I will be the first to admit that it’s not always easy to believe that when the darkness is so heavy it’s hard to breathe. But not only is your path leading you to a secure and imperishable inheritance in the presence of God, there is treasure to be found along the way, even when all earthly hope seems gone. That’s often when, for the first time, we come to know Jesus as our all-satisfying Savior. Though many paths of suffering are long, confusing, and painful, it’s in this very place of loss that our eyes can see the previously hidden glorious treasures of Christ (Romans 5:3–5).
If you find yourself on an unwanted path — one that tempts you to wonder if following Christ is worth it — take heart. By God’s grace, you can be confident that you are not here by some cruel twist of fate. If Christ has chosen you as his own and given you faith to believe the truth of the gospel, you are on the only path worth following. And Christ promises to equip you and be near, no matter how it feels for the moment.
Keep your eyes fixed on Christ, confident that there are unimaginable treasures in store on this winding road to glory.
To read more on the hope we have in suffering, you can purchase “Hope When It Hurts – 30 Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering” authored by Sarah Walton and Kristen Wetherell here or here.
Post previously appeared on DesiringGod.org