What scripture or text do you turn to most often when you are going through a trying time? What biblical principles do you turn to when you are going through a difficult time or experiencing some sort of suffering? Romans 8:28 is a treasured passage of many believers:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
We often cling to the idea that something positive will emerge out of our suffering. But what exactly are we hoping for? Sometimes, we interpret the good as something tangible, earthy, and now, such as: Maybe the job I lost will lead to an even better job. Perhaps this unfulfilled ambition will open the door to one that is even better. Maybe the reason why this relationship ended is because I have a better one in waiting for me.
The fruits of affliction are not always material or tangible.
While there are moments in our lives when we can reflect on adversity and see how it led to something better in the present, there are other positive outcomes from adversity that aren't material or tangible. They aren't something our unaided eyes can see. They have an inner and a spiritual side. They therefore have eternal significance.
Although John Newton is most remembered for writing the beloved hymn Amazing Grace, he also produced a large number of letters over his lifetime. Today, several of these letters are still published. His writings serve as a reminder of God's grace in the believer's life.
In one letter, he discusses the fruits of affliction for the believer:
Though afflictions in themselves are not joyous, but grievous, yet in due season they yield the peaceful fruits of righteousness. Various and blessed are the fruits they produce.
There are numerous fruits of affliction in the Believer life.
What are those fruits?
1. Prayer: Because our prayers have a tendency to become stiff and lethargic in times of ease, prayer is intensified by affliction. How accurate is this? We are more inclined to pray to the Lord when we are going through a difficult situation than we are when things are going smoothly. In my personal experience, I've seen that throughout difficult times, my prayer life grows and develops because the difficulty serves as a reminder of how dependent I am on God's grace.
2. Scripture: We can better understand the Scriptures and, in particular, God's promises to us, through affliction. Many of God's promises in the Bible deal with how he will help us when we are in need, but we won't be able to personally experience these promises unless we are going through a trying period. "We cannot know their fullness, sweetness, and certainty so well as when we have been in the position to which they are fitted, have been able to trust and plead them, and have found them fulfilled in our own case. The wisdom, power, and faithfulness of God are shown to us more clearly through trials.
3. Testimony: Our afflictions provide the opportunity to testify to others of God’s grace. When people see how God has brought us through a trial, God is glorified. Our lives then become living testimonies of God’s mercy and grace and give us an opportunity to share the reason for our hope.
4. Strength: Some graces, including resignation, patience, humility, and long-suffering, can only be discovered through affliction. The same way that lifting weights strengthens our muscles, suffering also causes us to develop traits that we would not otherwise possess without suffering's influence on our life. As the saying goes, "Activity and strength of grace is not typically gained by those who sit still and live comfortably, but by those who constantly encounter something requiring a full exertion of the force the Lord has given them."
5. Compassion: Affliction helps us have compassion for others who suffer. While we can have sympathy for others in affliction without experiencing such suffering ourselves, it is not as strong as when we have experienced it ourselves. Likewise, suffering helps us know more of the sufferings of Christ.
6. Humility: Finally, adversity and suffering help us better understand the genuine nature of our hearts. Affliction makes hidden sins in our souls more evident. This finding is undoubtedly painful, but until it is discovered, we tend to underestimate our own depravity and are unable to so fully despise ourselves and repent in dust and ashes. The fruit of humility is seeing the truth about ourselves.
Romans 8:28 promises good to come through our trials and afflictions. Though the trials are not good in and of themselves—far from it! —God uses them for our good.
Have you seen any of this fruit in your own life?
We would like to hear from you.