It makes sense to think that spending time in church and in prayer, studying the Bible, and lovingly serving others would create greater intimacy with God, but how does suffering bring us closer to God?
Suffering with someone binds you together in a unique relationship. Jesus, God’s Son, became flesh. He entered into our suffering, experiencing hunger, cold, loneliness, grief, and pain. He suffered the agony of anticipating the cross, and He suffered the cross itself, receiving the wrath for sin that we deserve. Because of the cross, we know God is with us when we suffer.
When we are heartbroken and belong to God is caring and compassionate. “The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite (crushed) spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (or sorrows).”
When we suffer and still pursue holiness, we mimic God’s Son who remained holy in His suffering. By mimicking Jesus’ response, we become more like Him.
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). God uses suffering to purge impurities caused by sin. He pours Himself through us and molds us into usable vessels that shine and attract.
During suffering, God prepares us to be there for others in their suffering: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:3-5).