Not all suffering is directly from God. Some hard things are just the consequence of living on a sinful, broken planet where people make free choices.
With that said, God still always does have a purpose for the suffering, and sometimes he even causes or allows suffering as a way of preparing us for blessings he wants to give us (Hebrews 12:7-11).
Therefore, here are 4 signs God is making you suffer before giving you what you want.
1. When a Blessing Would Be a Curse in the Hands of an Immature Saint, God Will Mature that Saint Before Blessing Them With that Gift
Blessings from God are like tools. A tool’s usefulness will ultimately be determined by the person using that tool. A saw can cut wood and make something beautiful, or it can cut flesh and destroy something beautiful.
Ecclesiastes 7:2 states (NIV), “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” This principle means that we are matured more through sadness than through gladness. Earthly pleasures are fleeting, and if we get too obsessed with them, we will forget that we can take nothing with us to eternity. When we live for this life and forget about the next, we are wasting our lives.
Of course God still wants to bless us with earthly blessings, with good relationships, and with other things we want (1 Timothy 6:17). But in love he must mature us first, otherwise the blessing will be a curse. As Proverbs 20:21 explains, “An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning will not be blessed in the end.”
2. Without Seasons of Hardships, We Grow Weak and Spiritually Fat
Ecclesiastes 7:3-5 (NIV) states, “Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure. It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools.”
Imagine if a parent always gave their child desserts and candy whenever they asked? That child would grow to be obese and unhealthy. When the child grew into an adult and looked back on their childhood, they would realize their parent was not giving them junk food because their parent loved them so much; rather, their parent was giving them junk food because the parent did not want to experience the pain of saying no. It’s selfish to never do the hard thing for someone even when you know it’s what is best for them. As Proverbs 27:6 states, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”
God love us too much to say “yes” all the time. In love, he matures us through his “no,” through his “wait,” and through his “yes, but not right now.” Like a loving parent, God wants to give us all the good things we desire. But like a wise parent, he knows he first needs to mature us so he can bless us in a healthy way that does not destroy us.
As Psalm 119:70-71 states, “. . . their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” If God always said yes, we would grow spiritually fat, so selfish and self-centered that we would be unable to feel the presence of God and obey his loving conviction and leading.
3. If You Have an Unbiblical View About God’s Rewards and Blessings, He Will Use Suffering to Sanctify This Area of Your Heart
Throughout the Bible, there are numerous statements about God rewarding the faithful and giving obedient people blessings (Galatians 6:7-9). But when we take these statements out of context, we can turn into mercenaries, trying to please God like an employee just working for a paycheck. This is not what God desires. God cares about the motives behind our good deeds. He has not called us to work for pay but to work out of our love for him.
In context, we have to remember two things when it comes to God’s blessings and rewards. First, every good gift is still given because of God’s grace (James 1:17). Because of sin, we deserve nothing (Romans 6:23). So when God waits for us to be faithful and obedient before blessing us, it’s not because we are earning these blessings but rather because we are showing we have the maturity to handle the blessings God wants to give us.
Second, we must remember what the gift and reward from God actually is. Ultimately, the gift God gives his people is the gift of himself through Jesus Christ. Yes, he does bless us with material things and earthly blessings like relationships. But even these are meant to be reminders of God’s love for us (Hosea 11:4).
Ecclesiastes 7:7 (NIV) states, “Extortion turns a wise person into a fool, and a bribe corrupts the heart.” The word “extortion” means to obtain something through force or threats. If God forced us to serve him or bribed us with gifts, it would be like he was using extortion, which in the end would corrupt our souls. No, Jesus serves us because he loves us, and he wants us to serve him because we love him (1 John 4:19).
Thus, God will allow us to suffer so we realize only his presence can give us the pleasure we seek. Even when life is hard and painful, through Christ we can have joy (Philippians 4:4). In Psalm 16:2 it states, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” This verse does not mean God never gives us good things besides himself. Rather, it means that we can never enjoy the lesser blessings in life until we are fully satisfied in Christ first.
Only when we are happy in God can we then be free to enjoy other blessings. Otherwise we ask too much of these things and they become bitter to us in the end.
4. If the Suffering Is Producing Wisdom and a Good End to Your Story, This Is a Sign God Is Making You Suffer Before Giving You What You Want
Every good story is a story of transformation. At the end of the story, the main character is always much different than he or she was at the beginning of the story. And this transformation always happens through the hard seasons in life, not the easy seasons. As Ecclesiastes 7:8-12 (NIV) states:
The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions. Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it.”
Don’t idolize the past. Better days are ahead. But to get there, God must give you wisdom and transform you.