Throughout the Bible and church history, we see that God uses suffering to prepare and equip His servants for usefulness in His holy work. 2 Cor. 4:8-9 is the norm, not the exception, for those who would serve the Suffering Servant. Suffering is never a pointless evil, but a necessary tool the Lord uses to refine, mature, and prepare us for fruitful service in His kingdom.
As I’ve been reading through the biography of Hudson Taylor, I’ve been struck with how much this dear servant suffered in order to see the gospel advanced in China. The cumulative effect of physical danger, the death of his beloved wife and several children, horrific slander, perennially poor health, and constant pressures would have crushed many. And yet, he not only pressed on, but did so with joy.
What enabled this dear brother to endure? Much could be said, but consider Taylor’s counsel to one of his fellow-workers who was enduring a season of special trial:
Counsel for Suffering Saints
“The one thing we need is to know God better. Not in ourselves, nor in our prospects, not in heaven itself are we to rejoice, but in the Lord. If we know Him, then we rejoice in what He gives not because we like it, but because it is His gift, His ordering. Oh, to know Him! Well might Paul, who had caught a glimpse of His glory, count “all things” as dung and dross compared with the most precious knowledge! This makes the weak strong, the poor rich, the empty full; this makes suffering happiness, and turns tears into diamonds like the sunshine turns dew into pearls. This makes us fearless, invincible.
If we know God, then when full of joy we can thank our Heavenly Father, the Giver of all; when we feel no joy we can thank Him for that, for it is our Father’s ordering. When we are with those we love, we can thank Him; when we yearn for those we love, we can thank Him. The hunger that helps us to feel our need, the thirst that helps us to drink, we can thank Him for; for what are food or drink without appetite, or Christ to a self-contented, circumstance-oriented soul? Oh to know Him! How good, how great, how glorious—our God and Father, our God and Savior, our God and Sanctifier—to know Him!
Pray on and labor on. Don’t be afraid of the toil; don’t be afraid of the cross: they will pay well.”
Knowing and resting in God; that’s the key. Dear reader, look not to your circumstances for stability or satisfaction. Rather, lean on the love of the Father who works all things for the good of His children. Regardless of the trials we might be experiencing right now, let us, like Taylor, pray on and labor on that we might know Him more.