God causes suffering in order to perfect us
God’s goals for His people are exceptionally lofty. He is not satisfied to leave mankind in its fallen state, or to leave the rest of the cosmos broken by sin, for that matter. Instead, He brings about — through the incarnation, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus — the spectacularly audacious plan of drawing us into Himself. In Christ, we are made perfect and holy (James 1:2-4), reconciled fully to God (2 Cor 5:18-19), considered God’s friends (John 15:15), adopted into God’s family (Ephesians 1:3-6), even made partakers of God’s divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and united directly with Him (John 17:20-23).
We will be His people, and He will be our God (Ezekiel 37:27; Revelation 21:3).
That is some pretty serious and amazing stuff. But it’s not easy. In fact, it’s SO hard that it required the sacrificial death of God’s very own Son. And even then, it also requires a serious work of refining and regeneration in the lives of God’s people at the hands of the Holy Spirit.
Simply put, God has not given us life so that we would kick back, live the easy life, and indulge our desires until they become a spiritual beer gut or major heart disease. Instead, God’s love for us is a perfecting love. He refines us as fire refines gold (removing every impurity). He prunes us so that we will bear more fruit. He disciplines us in order that “we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). He develops in us what we need to run the race to win. At the risk of creating a cheesy metaphor, God works us hard at the gym (the “House of Pain”? — sorry!) to develop muscle where there was once flab, fitness where there was once dysfunction, confidence where there was once fear, and holiness where there was once self-indulgent pride.
All these processes are painful and difficult. They all necessarily inflict discomfort and take from us that which we, in an earthly state of mind, would rather keep. But that’s because God is doing something greater in us than we understand or could do for ourselves. Until you’ve felt firsthand the benefits of being in shape (or the even more painful consequences of being severely out of shape), it’s very difficult to desire the challenge and pain of working out hard to get in shape.
Nobody is prepared to win the race without the pain of training.
Read more about the goodness of God, and how and why God introduces suffering into our lives.