Why God Uses the Suffering

Sam Petitfils

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:7-11).

The Apostle Paul carried the same kinds of burdens that God asks us to carry, only to an extreme degree. He suffered various privations, including loss of sleep, friends, and standing in his former community. He faced daily pressures from the churches he founded and others, and then he experienced severe persecution from both religious and political groups. How did he survive?

In the passage above, Paul mentions the phrase “jars of clay,” a reference to our weak human nature. How can God work through such vessels? In fact, He chooses to do just that. The race does not belong to the strong, but to the weak. Sound strange? It shouldn’t. The more we get beat up by this world the more we need to draw upon the comforting and encouraging resources of our loving heavenly Father. As we do, God chooses to use us more and more. He makes clear the reason: “. . .always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (verse 10). He draws a clear connection between earthly woes and spiritual preparation.

A fellow pastor just stopped by and handed me a copy of a paper written by a professor we both shared in seminary. This paper describes his life caring for his wife who suffered physically most of her life. I have never met a more Spirit-controlled professor in all my life, and I recall eagerly attending his lectures (though I did not relish taking his exams!). He always displayed a genuine Christ-like spirit and quickly became a giant role model for me. He faithfully attended to his wife for decades until she finally succumbed to her illness. Throughout this ordeal, he never once exhibited any carnality that I witnessed, and always spoke well of others, and never complained about his situation.

What was the result of his life of suffering? Why, a life of usefulness, of course! Through his suffering he was made complete through weakness. Why? So the power would come from God, and not himself. When we suffer, fear not and faint not. God sees you as a potential useful vessel that He can use to bless others.

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