Years ago I was given a copy of a book by this title. The donor, Bob was a friend who taught a class of special needs children. He was aware that Hilary and I were going through difficulties and he wanted to encourage us with honest insight on the purposes of suffering.
The author Paul Billheimer had enjoyed a vibrant ministry together with his wife until a serious heart attack put him on his back with little or no chance of returning to his beloved vocation. The Billheimers stayed close to the promises of God regarding healing and submitted to extensive treatment. The sense of hopelessness passed with the increasing realization of God’s presence and love. Paul was healed and returned to activity as counsel for the TBN Network (Paul and Jan Crouch).
The testing and victory led to the above-mentioned book which is a part of a trilogy of titles (Purposes in prayer; purposes in suffering; priority of love). I strongly recommend this writer.
He suggests that the greatest Sufferer of all is God who is so grossly misunderstood and maligned by the greater number of people. He is sovereign however, and His plans will succeed. He desires to partner with faithful children who are learning progressively to understand His nature and to walk in His ways. He wishes to accomplish His will in response to faithful prayer. Indeed, John Wesley went so far as to say that God will do nothing on this planet except in response to prayers and supplications from His children. We have a huge job to do in the way of intercession and we are told repeatedly in the New Testament that we are to PRAY – for friends, ministers, persons in authority, the sick, the deprived, the lonely, the wayward.
But how are such prayers to be offered with fervency? The answer is Christ-like compassion. How is that compassion to come? Identification with the real facts and issues and challenges behind the case. How is that identification to come? SUFFERING.
Therefore one must not “waste” his sorrows, through fretting, self-pity, anger or despondency. Look for the opportunities. Gain the audacity and the resource. Grow in Christ. Allow the greatness of His suffering and ultimate victory to chisel away at the size of your portion of gloom.
And whatever the circumstances there is always cause to rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 4: 4) and one’s inevitable inheritance by faith.
Someone needs to hear this today. Someone needs to know that there is a precious currency and partnership in suffering.