In his sermon, “Direction in Dilemma,” Charles Spurgeon helps us consider God’s good purposes in suffering.
“We are always prone to put a high estimate upon what we are, or may be, or can feel, or do. It is clear, then, that self must stand out of the way, that there may be room for God to be exalted; and this is the reason, the true secret, why God bringeth his people ofttimes into straits and difficulties, that, being brought to their wits’ end, and made conscious of their own folly and weakness, they may be fitted to behold the majesty of God when he comes forth to work their deliverance. A man whose life shall be one even and smooth path, will see but little of the glory of God, for he has few occasions of self-emptying, and hence, but little fitness for being filled with the revelation of God. They who navigate little streams and shallow creeks, know but little of the God of tempests; but they who “go down to the sea in ships, and do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.” Among the huge Atlantic waves of bereavement, poverty, temptation, and reproach, we learn the power of Jehovah, because we feel the littleness of man. Self-esteem is that speck in the eye which most effectually mars human vision; the Great Surgeon of souls removes this from us chiefly by sanctified afflictions. At the mouth of the furnace the Great Purifier sits as a Refiner to purify the sons of Levi, and when this work has been achieved, and they have become pure in heart, the divine purpose is accomplished, God’s glory is manifested, for the pure in heart shall see the Lord, Thank God, then, dear brother, if you have been led by a rough road: it is this which has given you your experience of God’s lovingkindness. Your troubles have enriched you with a wealth of knowledge to be gained by no other means; your trials have been the cleft of the rock in which God has set you as he did his servant Moses, that you might behold his glory as it passed by. Praise your God, O sons of sorrow, ye have not been left to the darkness and ignorance which continued prosperity might have involved. Bless him that you have been capacitated to show forth his glory by being permitted and honored to endure a great fight of affliction. Our one aim in life is, I trust, to glorify our God, and if so, are not those afflictions precious which enable us to honor him? We will call them friends, if they help us to praise God. We will wear them as jewels, and rejoice in them as a bride rejoiceth in her ornaments, if they aid us in glorifying our blessed Lord. In this spirit, we may almost envy the children of Israel as we see them entangled in the wilderness and overtaken by their foes, for now shall they see the mighty arm of God made bare.”