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When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned

Woman with her head in her hand, suffering or struggling
What will God do with our suffering? Does He even care?

A little over a year ago, I experienced a series of major life changes. I suffered some personal losses; my kids started a new school; and my work took an unexpected and disappointing turn. Almost everything seemed uncertain, and all the plans I’d made for myself were suddenly off the table.

I don’t think anyone likes to suffer. Most of us avoid it if possible, clinging to our comforts. But suffering always finds us. No matter how good someone looks on the outside, if you sit down and learn their story, you will probably discover suffering and loss. Whether as the result of a difficult childhood, a demoralizing job, a series of broken relationships, or just the evaporation of dreams, everyone experiences suffering.

The meaning in the suffering

When hard times come, we may wonder if God is punishing us. We may lose a little hope in the future or faith in God coming through for us. Maybe we feel like God prospers other people but never us. Perhaps we feel singled out for pain. 1 Peter 4:12-13 addresses this exact question when it says:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”

This passage reveals several things. Let’s break it down to observe:

You are beloved. Sometimes suffering can strike to our identity: If I’m not experiencing the good life, I must not be loved. Peter reminds his readers that they are “beloved.” In good times or bad times, we are fully and deeply loved by God.

Trials shouldn’t surprise us. This verse lets us know that as believers, we shouldn’t find suffering strange. “Fiery trials” are part of the Christian’s experience and serve as tests of our faith. Will we continue to put our trust in the Lord when life isn’t going our way?

We should rejoice in trials. Twice this verse says to “rejoice” and once is says to “be glad” when a fiery trial arises. This is not a normal response to pain, but Peter assures the believer that he has reason to express joy in trouble. You can rejoice as you face the trial because you share in Christ’s sufferings. And you can rejoice later when His glory is revealed.

Transforming trials

Trials, then, are opportunities to share in Christ’s sufferings and experience the joy of seeing Him glorified. Continuing his teaching on suffering in the following chapter, Peter offers this encouragement: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

When life doesn’t go as planned, we have hope. Suffering doesn’t last forever. While it’s true some people seem to experience more than their fair share of trials, it doesn’t negate the promise of Scripture that suffering does end.

Sometimes the things we see as interruptions, disappointments or stress-inducers are the very things God uses to mature us and even bring good into our lives. Job, one of the greatest sufferers to ever live, asked, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10) That’s a challenging question. When life falls apart, we must remember that God has a sacred purpose for everything — good and bad — He allows in our lives. Pain is an agent of transformation.

I’m still walking a challenging road, but I know the Lord walks with me. His goodness and provision have been so evident through the hard moments of the past year. I have truly been able to rejoice as I see His power and glory and remember how Jesus suffered for me. And I can trust that He is working all things together for His bigger purpose. I am called to eternal glory in Christ. That makes today’s hard things a lot easier to handle.

Copyright 2023 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Suzanne Gosselin
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin

Suzanne Hadley Gosselin is a freelance writer and editor. She graduated from Multnomah University with a degree in journalism and biblical theology. She lives in California with her husband, Kevin, and her four young children: Josiah, Sadie, Amelia and Jackson. When she’s not hanging out with her kids, Suzanne loves a good cup of coffee, conversation with friends, musical theater and a trip to the beautiful California coast.

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