The Benefits of Weakness and Suffering

No one likes illness, suffering, or pain, yet the results of these things can have eternal value. It has been said that if dependence upon God is the objective, then weakness is an advantage. Weakness and suffering have tremendous advantage for our salvation and sanctification. The sixteenth-century theologian, Theodore Beza attributed his conversion to a severe illness and the consequent fear of death:

He approached me through a sickness so severe that I despaired of my life. Seeing his terrible judgment before me, I could not think what to do with my wretched life. Finally, after endless suffering of body and soul, God showed pity upon His miserable lost servant and consoled me so that I could not doubt His mercy. With a thousand tears, I renounced my former self, implored His forgiveness, renewed my oath to serve His true church, and in sum gave myself wholly over to Him. So the vision of death threatening my soul awakened in me the desire for a true and everlasting life. So sickness was for me the beginning of true health (letter to Melchior Wolmar, May 12, 1560).

In a similar vein, the apostle Paul spoke of the benefit of weakness and suffering in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

If we love eternal things more than our temporary comfort and convenience, we will be willing, like Paul, to suffer for our own good and the glory of God. This is what God has been teaching me today!

About Mark Farnham
Associate Professor and Coordinator of Pastoral and Pre-Seminary Majors at Lancaster Bible College, Lancaster, PA. Founder and Director, Apologetics for the Church (apologeticsforthechurch.org). PhD in Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia; ThM in New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

One Response to The Benefits of Weakness and Suffering

  1. Jim E says:

    Mark, these are good thoughts…I think we miss out on this kind of thinking most of the time, “unless” we are facing a life and death situation…or some disease that will ultimately end our life earlier than “we” planned…you give some good examples of people who have faced that unpleasant truth…

    You have probably heard of William Stuntz, a professor at Harvard Law School…he would be a “late day” example of what you are talking about…he just died recently, of cancer…he was called by someone I respect, a reflective Christian…it is not a political, nor a theological “tag”…just the fact that he was a Christian…and was reflective…sort of like you are doing here…I would urge anyone to read about his walk in his last years and months…it will make all of us reflect, I think…

    He used Job 14:15 as his important verse concerning his soon coming death…”You will call and I will answer. You will long for the creature your hands have made.”…his view of that verse for himself (and us) is so good…(so if you Google “You will call and I will answer”)…will get you to some things about him,…interesting to hear from a man ready to leave this earth, into the hands of the God…Who made him…

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