As much as we hate to admit it, there is a redeeming factor to suffering. In fact, we could say that in some cases suffering is life-changing. A classic example is Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose writings probably did more to reveal the corruption and emptiness of the Soviet Communist system than any single political factor. He said of his time spent in a Soviet prison camp:
It was granted to me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts…. That is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me: “Bless you, prison!” I…have served enough time there. I nourished my soul there, and I say without hesitation: “Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!” (The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956, Vol. 2, 615-617)
Psalm 119:71, 72 “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.”
Job 23:10, 12 “But he knows the way I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold….I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.”
In these verses we have the experiential testimony of two more sufferers; the Psalmist and Job. I have read and pondered these verses for years and am just now coming to understand what they mean.
The goodness of affliction is known (experienced) when God’s Word reveals to us who we really are, and becomes more precious to us than all our investments and more necessary to us than our next meal.
One cannot know such goodness without affliction and one cannot benefit from affliction without God’s Word. Do not distain your suffering, but embrace it for you will nourish your soul there. Truly, it is “God’s megaphone.” (CS Lewis)