Holding On Through Times of Suffering

Hey there! Welcome back to my blog. Today, I’ve got a special guest post from one of my closest friends, Luella. In this article, she will break down how suffering is ultimately for our benefit and how we should respond, while drawing examples from a special person’s life. Who is that person? Well, I’m not the one writing today, so don’t look at me, just keep reading!

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When was the last time that you were in a place of hardship or suffering?

The past week, month, or even a few years?

There was a clockmaker who was quite familiar with suffering and her name was Corrie ten Boom. If you don’t know who she is, she was a Dutch woman who was born on April 15, 1892 and endured hardships she faced during both World War I and World War II.

Now, Corrie was a simple and quite frankly, ordinary Dutch woman whose days were not spent doing very exciting things. She would go for a walk with her father, get the daily supplies, tend the watch shop, help repair the watches, and in the evenings, spend time with her family reading the Bible. However, God was using her in the ministry of teaching the Bible to the mentally disabled and housing those without a home in the small village of Haarlem, Netherlands.

The Nazis invaded the Netherlands in 1940 and Corrie got involved with God’s calling for her to protect His people. Helping the Jews was a massive and dangerous undertaking because while God wanted to protect His chosen people, the Nazis wanted the extermination of them. Protecting the Jews often resulted in great punishment in prison camps. 

Even though God could have protected her from the fate she was about to face, He knew what was best for Corrie. He allowed her to be imprisoned along with her whole family to protect the eight Jews she was keeping in her house. By the Lord’s grace, all of the Jews she hid in the secret room were not found! 

Through her grueling experiences in three different prisons and all of the things that happened in them, good and bad, the Lord still kept a close watch over her life. In her story, we learn why God allows suffering, how He uses our hard situations to bless us and others, and in what ways we should respond to our own suffering.  

Ground Rules 

Let me just lay out some of the ideas and theologies I will be using throughout this article so that we’re on the same page.

Suffering and struggle in life doesn’t mean God isn’t in control of what is going on or that He is maliciously letting us suffer; instead, He is giving us room to grow and deepen our character and relationship with Him. God knows exactly what needs to happen in our lives to produce the kind of character we are lacking. Most often He does that through hard experiences, as we’ll see with Corrie.

With that said, let’s get back to her!

Why God Allows Suffering

Sure, Corrie had a great faith before the trials she went through, but God gave her the experience she needed to put even more trust in Him and an even more profound passion for spreading the gospel.

While she was helping the Jews find safe places to stay, God was shaping her reliance on His strength and His provisions that she would otherwise not have had. Later, she would be in situations where what God had supplied her with in past experiences would be put to good use. In our lives and in Corrie’s life, His gifts often come in strange packages and always at the right time.

How God Uses Our Suffering to Bless Others

Not only will our suffering shape us into the person God wants us to be, but will also be a tool He uses to skulpt other people’s lives at the same time! Through Corrie’s time in the Underground, the secret revolution against the Germans, her head was always on a swivel and she was scared for the lives of everyone she was protecting, for her family, and herself if they were ever found out.

Despite that, in that time of dread and trusting God, she rescued eight-hundred Jews! Even in her darkest hours in prison, the love of Jesus was still her lifesaver and she tried very hard to get past her own suffering to help others. 

During her time in person, she and her sister Betsie would hold prayer, worship, and Bible studies whenever they could and God would always provide them with the supply of strength, translators, and also peace from the guards. An example of this is the story of them and the fleas.

God is Ultimately Glorified in Our Suffering

Have you or your pet experienced or even just heard a story of how awful fleas are? Fleas are little insects that live and love to burrow their little icky heads into a host and drink their blood until they look like a swollen balloon. Ravensbruck prison, where Corrie and Betsie were staying at this point in their story, was infested with them! Their cots, clothes, blankets, and themselves were all stricken by these little demons of pain and infection, but they too served God’s purpose. 

Somehow, Corrie and Betsie would go uninterrupted while teaching others about Christ and helping them. That was because the guards detested the fleas and would never go into the room to ever find their prison ministry. How incredible God is to find such a clever way to use suffering for His children’s good! 

After the war, Corrie fulfilled the prophetic vision Betsie had told Corrie before she died of making a sanctuary for people who went through the horrors of prison. Corrie could personally relate to all of them since she had gone through the same thing. She also traveled the world telling people about the hardships and trials they went through, but also how God brought them through it all.

Though she died in April of 1983, her story has continued throughout the world to comfort those who are hurting and are equipping those who haven’t yet experienced pain like that with the courage they need to fight when it comes. One of the people Corrie had influenced with her story was Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni is paralyzed from the neck down due to a diving accident and battled with depression for many years because of it. A few years into her new condition a friend gave her Corrie’s first book, The Hiding Place, which gave her hope in her suffering and the power to move onto what God had for her. 

Suffering Opens Opportunities 

This one will make your toes curl, but oddly enough, our suffering opens opportunities we would not otherwise have. Knowing what a certain type of suffering entails will open opportunities for God to work through you to help others who are or have gone through that same suffering.

As I have already mentioned, Corrie opened a house for prison survivors and truly helped them to forgive their guards or fellow countrymen who betrayed them. When we are in that suffering, God still uses it to benefit others! All of the eight-hundred Jews who Corrie assisted in saving were saved in a time of their distress, but at the same time she put herself into their suffering.

All of our suffering points to God and how He is using this time to prepare us for eternity with Him in heaven, where there will no longer be pain and suffering.

You see now, God is exemplified in the anguish we go through! He desperately wants us to have a relationship with Him and sometimes He uses our suffering to dip our toes into the world without Him. When we finally realize we need to run back to His grace, He doesn’t turn us away because we didn’t love Him before, but opens His arms to give us a warm embrace. Then He’ll sit you down to tell you how He was using the hurt to bring a certain characteristic we needed for our future along with a story of how He loved us way before we were even born.

The love we see Him pour out on us is the love of a great Father who, no matter the circumstances, will always do the best thing for His child.

Closing

With all of those things in mind we now ask, “How then am I supposed to deal with suffering?” There are three things I’ll leave you with.

First, our suffering is ultimately for our good. All God wants is for us to be is fruitful and sometimes that fruit is made with a freeze, like how tulips have to be planted before winter so their bulb will break in the winter and produce a dashing flower in the spring. 

Second, God may even plant some other bulbs in our life that we can help show how there is a time coming where they too will become beautiful flowers, like dahlias.

And finally, those flowers may be used in a bouquet or in a pot or simply left to grow for people passing by, and they will be used for a greater purpose. 

We shouldn’t be viewing our trials as trivial; instead, we should look at them the way James describes them in James 1:2-4:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4 NASB

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