Why does God allow us to struggle? One of the best men to look at when seeking to answer this question is the Apostle Paul.
Paul struggled a lot in his life and ministry. Thankfully he was also very open about his struggles. By studying what Paul wrote in the Bible, we can discover at least three reasons God allows us to struggle.
1. God Allows Us to Struggle to Keep Us Humbly Dependent on Him Which Actually Increases Our Strength
While at first it might seem cruel and unloving that God allows us to suffer, when we start studying the Scriptures we see that God actually allows us to suffer to increase the power in our lives for his glory. One of the ways God makes people more effective for his glory is by producing more humility in them. God opposes the proud but he is close to the humble (Isaiah 57:15). In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Paul said:
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.”
Just as God allowed Paul to suffer to keep him from becoming conceited, God allows us to suffer so that we too will realize we are actually more powerful for Christ when we accept our weaknesses so we can accept God’s sufficient grace in our lives.
2. God Allows Us to Struggle Because “it is sin living in me.”
As humans we have a tendency to take the credit that belongs to God and we try to give God the blame that belongs to us. Certainly not all the suffering in our lives is because of our own sin, but there is no way we can deny that much of the suffering in our lives is directly caused by our sinful choices. In Romans 7:14-20 Paul said:
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”
Here Paul is pointing out that when we become Christians sin does not die within us but we are to die to sin. In other words, you are no longer your sin nature if you are a Christian. You have a new nature within you by the regenerating work of Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17). But that old sinful nature still lives in your body even though that is no longer the real you.
So one reason we suffer is because we are on the path of sanctification and we still allow our old nature to take control of our lives sometimes. The more we learn to crucify the fleshly desires living within us so we can live from the Spirit and from the new nature we have received in Christ, the more we will be able to thrive in life.
3. God Allows Us to Struggle So We Can Gain Christ
From personal experience, any Christian knows who has walked with Christ for any significant period of time that God often brings the most growth in our lives through our hardest seasons. Notice the link Paul discusses in Philippians 3:7-11 between losing things in this life to gain more of Christ:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
There’s no denying these eternal and fundamental truths. To gain Christ we must accept the necessary losses. Paul said, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Nothing is more valuable than Christ, therefore no amount of suffering that draws us closer to Christ is too great a sacrifice to make.
As Jim Elliot famously said before he was martyred on the mission field, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”