Lucy and I sat together in church last Sunday. That is not necessarily an anomaly, but often when I’m preaching, I’m down in front, close to the stage. (Lucy prefers 10 rows back, where she alleges, she can see me better.) As we sang the words to “Goodness of God”, we both glanced around the room, each of us noting people we knew were suffering, or who had experienced severe loss. Cancer there. The death of a child over there. Divorce. Widows and widowers. Parents praying for prodigals to come home. On the screen the words rolled by:
I love Your voice, You have led me through the fire
In the darkest night You are close like no other
I’ve known You as a Father, I’ve known You as a Friend
And I have lived in the goodness of God
I was proud of the faith in the hearts of the worshippers I watched. It takes faith to worship through pain, believing that God is in fact good when life is hard. Job 5:7 says, “man is born to trouble – as the sparks fly upward.” Jesus promised,“in this world you will have tribulation.” But we affirm by faith that God is good. His mercy endures forever. His lovingkindness is everlasting.
God has purposes in pain, the highest of which is always His own glory. He is magnified when suffering saints cling to Him as their world gives way in the fires of trial. Faith is refined like precious gold so that its genuineness results in praise and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7). Life’s losses forge faith that holds onto the singular prize worth treasuring.
Suffering also produces in us endurance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-5). God grows us deeper and more hopeful as He carries us through the sorrows of this broken world. To be sure these are rarely traits we perceive or appreciate in the moment, but over time God’s love for us is poured out by the work of His Holy Spirit whom He has given to us. He does not waste hardship.
Pain also enables us to experience a communal life of fellowship as we weep with those who weep and comfort those who sorrow with the comfort we ourselves have experienced from God (2 Corinthians 1:3,4). We all drink bitter water at some time in our lives, but we are refreshed by those who have gone before us in their own suffering and found God to be truly good. And then together we sing and command our hearts to believe:
All my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God