Read James 5:7-12
Pain’s Production by Scott Hubbard
Key Verse: “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience” (James 5:10 NKJV).
Often in suffering, we have eyes only for what our trials take away from us. We watch, speechless, as the fire swallows up so much we held dear. But underneath the ashes, our trials are producing something. “Testing . . . produces steadfastness.” If we will trust God and wait patiently, our trials will give us far more than they take away.
Yes, but how do we know that our trials are producing something glorious? That’s the question that returns on wakeful nights, and intrudes throughout the workday, and casts a gloom on our wavering faith.
We know that pain is producing steadfastness not because we can always see the production in process. Normally, in the moment, all we can see is the pain: the diagnosis, the divorce, the loneliness, the long wait. Instead, we know that our suffering is producing something because God, alongside his promise, displays this pattern in the lives of his people — without exception.
If we scour our Bibles, and the history of all the saints, we will find many Jobs covered with boils, many Ruths widowed away from home, many Hemans covered in darkness of Psalm 88. But if we trace their stories, we will find, without fail, “the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11). There never was a child of God whose suffering was for naught, nor will there ever be.
In every trial — from headaches to heartbreaks — God wounds his children only to heal them (Hosea 6:1); he casts them down only to raise them up (Isaiah 30:26); he sends his flames only to leave them refined. So we can hear God sing to us, in the words of John Rippon’s hymn,
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
In order to get there, we need to recognize our suffering for what it is: not ultimately a thief who steals our best years, nor a murderer who kills our dearest dreams, nor a madman who wields his weapons at random. Our suffering is, rather, a servant from God, sent to make us steadfast.
Scott Hubbard is a graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary and an editor for desiringGod.org. He and his wife, Bethany, live with their son in Minneapolis.
PRAYER: Father, help me to accept that my sufferings are a servant from You.