How Suffering Can Make You Stronger
By: Missy Lee
What to do when you find yourself in the oven of life and the heat keeps rising?
A few years ago, I found myself in a season of suffering. The more I called out to God, the hotter it got. I couldn’t understand what was going on. I started reading the Bible and praying, but at the same time, I was confused by God’s abandonment and what seemed like His lack of care.
Why would a good Father allow his children to suffer? It didn’t make sense to me.
Then one day, I was watching a show about how they make fire-resistant home building materials. They put the items in an oven and slowly turn up the heat, over and over, until all the flammable materials are burned off. The end result is a house not easily consumed by flames when a spark bumps into it.
God can work through the heat to strengthen our faith so we aren’t easily shaken by the cares and worries of life.
At that moment, I saw purpose in the suffering I was reading about in the Bible and going through myself.
The same way fire can create heat resistance in building materials, suffering can build strength in our spiritual lives. The harshness of the world we live in doesn’t have to consume us like an out-of-control fire. Like the company in the documentary, God can work through the heat to strengthen our faith so we aren’t easily shaken by the cares and worries of life.
Two People God Made Stronger Through Suffering
At 75, Abraham was called to leave his home, his friends, and all he knew to follow God to a new land where God would make him the father of a great nation (Genesis 12:1-2). Only Abraham and Sarah didn’t have any children. Year after year, there were no children as they wandered from place to place living in tents.
When a king thought Sarah was beautiful, Abraham introduced her as his sister and let the king take her for fear of being killed (Genesis 20:1-2). Abraham didn’t trust God to protect him long enough to make him the father of a nation. But God did protect Abraham by revealing the truth of who Sarah was in a dream (Genesis 20:3-11).
It wasn’t until Abraham was 100 years old that Isaac was born to him and Sarah. Twenty-five years in the oven, burning off the doubt and lack of faith, shaped Abraham into a man who walked with God. Eventually, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son to Him. By that time, Abraham had such faith in God’s promises, he did everything God said, knowing God would give him his son back, even if he didn’t know how it would happen (Genesis 22:1-19).
David was anointed as king of Israel while just a boy tending his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 16:13). But it would be roughly 15 years before David took the throne.
Saul, the king at the time, was going mad and nothing soothed him like good music. David, a talented musician, was called in to play the harp for Saul (1 Samuel 16:14-23). When David killed a giant named Goliath, his influence grew. David even became best friends with the king’s son, Jonathan, and married into the royal family. It was obvious that God was blessing David — until it seemed He wasn’t.
King Saul’s madness and jealousy caused him to turn on David. All he could think about was killing him (1 Samuel 18:11). David had to run from his wife, his best friend, and the palace God had told David would be his one day.
David spent years hiding from King Saul and often felt abandoned by God. We know this because David often poured out the rawness of his heart to God in songs that are now part of the book of Psalms.
God does not abandon us when the heat is on.
In that season of fleeing the mad king, David matured in his own faith. So much so that when David finally had the chance to kill Saul and take the throne, he chose not to harm God’s anointed and waited on God’s timing. Eventually, David became king. And today, we know him as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).
When we find ourselves in seasons of suffering, seasons when the heat keeps rising, God is with us, working in us. In Isaiah 48:10, God tells us as much saying, “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
Refining burns off the impurities in precious metals until they are in the purest form. As we call out for relief, remember Abraham and David’s stories and the strength that grows from suffering. God does not abandon us when the heat is on. Instead, God uses these opportunities to burn off the parts of our hearts that would take us up in flames if He left them.