Purpose of suffering



“But they will become his slaves so that they may learn the difference between My service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries” (2 Chronicles 12:8).



In a book called "Suffer" by Rev. Thomas Case, a Puritan doctor of soul, he talks about the 21 lessons God teaches his people through the situation of suffering.  I was afraid as I was reading those 21 lessons.  So I wrote these words: It is terrible that I don’t know why I am being discipline by God.  But the more fearful thing is that I have not learned the teachings of God even after I was disciplined by God.’  The reason for this fearful thought is that because many times we don’t realize our sins that we have committed against God even though we are disciplined by God.  That’s why we are wondering why these painful situations have come upon us in situations where we are suffering from discipline by God.  And we complain and grumble because of the painful situation we face.  There is surely a God’s good purpose of suffering given to us in the sovereignty of God, but there are so many times that we don’t realize that purpose.  That’s why we wander.  That’s why we ask so many questions: ‘Why does God give us suffering?’, ‘Could it be that we are suffering because of our sins?’, ‘What should we do if it is because of our sins?’, ‘And if we were delivered from the suffering by the grace and mercy of God, what is the lesson of God that we must learn from that suffering?’ etc..


If we look at the context of 2 Chronicles 12:8, king of Judah Rehoboam and Israel suffer greatly.  And their great suffering was the crisis of destruction (v. 12).  The great suffering was that God had forsaken Israel and put them in the hands of Shishak king of Egypt (v. 5).  Why did Rehoboam and Israel face the crisis of destruction?  The reason was because they had forsaken God (v.5).  In other words, because Rehoboam and Israel forsook the law of God (v. 1), they were forsaken by God (v.5).  Why then did Rehoboam and Israel forsake the law of God?  It was  because the kingdom of Rehoboam was established and strong (v.1).  In other words, the reason why Rehoboam and the people of Judah sinned against God by forsaking the law of God was pride (v. 2).  Therefore, God was angry (v. 12) and caused the king of Egypt Shishak to strike Jerusalem (vv. 2-4).


                As I was meditating on this word, I had another fearful thought.  That fearful thought was "familiarity".  Just as Rehoboam and Judah were established and strong which they were accustomed to and thus became arrogant and forsook the law of God, I am afraid that I can become accustomed to the peace, abundance, and firmness of my family and my church and thus become arrogant without realizing it.  Furthermore, I am afraid that the seeds of my pride in my heart have become bitter and fruitful, and that in the end I will refuse the Word of God and intentionally disobey God and sin against God.  Clearly holy and just God knows that I am proud and I am guilty of forsaking the Word of God in my pride.  Therefore, I am worried that God will take a stick of discipline and disciple me, my family, and my church which I serve.  I am concerned about my holy God disciplines me because I am getting so accustomed to such peach, abundance and firmness of my life.


What should we do?  As Rehoboam and the princes of Judah gathered in Jerusalem in Judah (v. 5) humbled themselves (v. 6), we must also humble ourselves before God.  We must lower ourselves before the righteous God (v. 6).  In particular, we, husbands and fathers, pastors and elders, who are leaders of our homes and churches, must humble ourselves.  And we must confess our sins in the presence of God and confess and repent of the sins we have arrogantly forsaken God's Word and forsaken God.  This is the purpose God gives us suffering.  The purpose of our Heavenly Father who disciplines us, who are proud, disobedient, and sinful is to make us to realize our sins against the righteous God, to turn from our sins, to repent and return to our Heavenly Father and to obey the Word of God.  In the end, God didn’t destroy all the kingdom of Judah, because Rehoboam humbled himself and there were some good in Judah (v. 12).  In other words, God didn’t pour out all his wrath on Rehoboam and Judah and destroyed them all (v. 7).  Rather, God saves them roughly (v. 7).  Isn’t it interesting neither God destroy them totally but also save them completely?  Why did God do that?  Why doesn’t God completely deliver us from our sufferings even though our expectations are complete salvation?  The purpose is to teach us the difference between serving God and serving the kings of other lands.  Look at 2 Chronicles 12:8 – “But they will become his slaves so that they may learn the difference between My service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries.”  The reason why God didn’t destroy Rehoboam and Judah completely but saved them roughly was so that they might learn the difference between serving Shishak the king of Egypt and serving God (v. 8).  Do we realize this deep will of God?  Are we learning the difference between serving God in suffering and serving riches, successes, and idols of this world?


Now we the church needs Jesus who is the true doctor of our souls.  That's because we are spiritually sick.  Now we are so accustomed to God's grace and blessings.  Now we are so accustomed to peace, abundance, solidity, and strength.  Therefore, we become so proud that we are forsaking the Word of God and forsaking God.  And now we are too worldly.  Now we are sinning against our righteous God.  That’s why we are being disciplined by God. God is now striking us with the stick of the world.  Nevertheless, we aren’t humbling ourselves before God.  We are still stiff-necked people who don’t realize our sins before our holy God.  Also, we are complaining and grumbling rather than repenting.  We still can’t distinguish the difference between serving God and serving the world.  What must we do?  Is there any hope for us?