Suffering can also be used by God to prepare us for a special task ahead of us.
The Bible doesn't tell us what Job's task might have been after God completely restored him, but it certainly tells us what happened with Joseph, in the book of Genesis. Through unbelievable adversity as a young man, God prepared him for a task beyond his imagination.
You remember his story. Abandoned and betrayed by his brothers, and sold into slavery, he was eventually elevated to a position of great power. As the prime minister of Egypt, the second most influential man in the world, he was given charge of Egypt's food stores during a worldwide famine.
Then the day came when ten of his brothers, who thought Joseph was long dead, came down to Egypt from Canaan to get food for their starving families. The moment Joseph saw and recognized them, he could have had them summarily executed on the spot.
Instead, he forgave them, and made this amazing statement:
"But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive." (Genesis 50:20 NKJV)
Earlier, he told them: "But don't be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it. He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives" (Genesis 45:5 NLT).
Did you catch that? Joseph didn't just say "God allowed it," though you could describe it that way, too. But he actually said, "God did it." Why? Joseph said, "To save many people alive."
God delivered Joseph from his brothers' jealousy, from a false accusation by his master's wife, and then from the dungeon, so he could interpret the dream of the Pharaoh and make provision for the future. And many, many people across the ancient world lived as a result. The suffering he went through prepared him for the job that God had for him.
Maybe the Lord is allowing you to go through some difficult circumstances right now to prepare you for something He wants you to do tomorrow. I realize that thought might not comfort you all that much in your present distress. You may be thinking, "No, this suffering doesn't make any sense at all. It's meaningless. There's no point to it."
Joseph might have thought that same thing at several points in his life journey. It's certain that Job did! But the truth is, God might very well be preparing you to touch someone else's life in a way no one else could.
If someone just found out they have cancer and you are a cancer survivor, you have no idea how much encouragement and perspective you can bring to such a person, who feels as though he or she has been handed a death sentence.
You have no idea how much comfort that can bring. And it would be something that only you could say. No one else could say those words with the same kind of credibility.
Once, we had a man named Brian Birdwell give his testimony at our church. Brian was in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, when those planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Many of Brian's friends were killed that day. He survived, though he was burned over much of his body, and had to go through excruciating, multiple skin graft operations.
Afterward, I had lunch with Brian, and we had a lot of fun together. He is very witty and a great pleasure to be with. In my opinion, he is also a genuine American hero.
Before we finished our meal, I asked him if he wanted to do something with me that afternoon. He thanked me, but then said, "Greg, I'd love to, but I can't. I have to go to a hospital."
"What's going on?" I asked him.
"Well," he said, "whenever I go speak in some location, I always find out where the local burn ward is, and I go and visit the patients."
I remember thinking how wonderful that was. Who could have a more effective ministry to burn victims than someone who had been through the agony of skin grafts and burn treatments as Brian had?
Imagine being an individual burned over most of your body, and thinking, "My life is over." But then a survivor comes along and says, "Look. I know how hard it is. I have been there. But I got through it! And here is what God has been doing in and through my life since I got out of the hospital. He can do the same for you!"
Paul, who had his own serious issues with suffering, wrote: "He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NLT).
God will give you that comfort—over and beyond what you can personally contain—so that you can share it with others.
Today's devotion is excerpted from the first chapter of Greg Laurie's book, Why, God? (Dana Point, Calif.: Kerygma Publishing, 2007). To order a copy of Why, God? while supplies last, click here to visit the Harvest Store.
Used with Permission