On Sunday my husband spent some time in the pulpit talking about some of the reasons for and the ultimate good that can come out of unexpected suffering, trials and annoying inconveniences. Although God sometimes permits us to suffer for reasons that we did not bring on ourselves, there are times when redemption can be found in the midst.
That afternoon he met with a young couple who had experienced one of those times of redemptive suffering. A few years ago the young man's family ranch was devastated by an outbreak of BSE in cattle around the globe. They suffered financial hardships, had many struggles about what to do with their land and ranch and generally wondered what they had done to deserve such a disaster befalling their family after several generations of hard work and clean living.
The young man meeting with my husband said that the disaster forced him to look for another line of work and he wondered what he would do. However, thanks to the BSE outbreak, a new veterinary school was built in his area for the purpose of researching and treating cattle and their diseases. He was able to get into their training programme to pursue veterinary medicine. After he began his courses he met one of the other students....a lovely young woman that he is preparing to marry.
He was able to set aside his confusion and bitterness as to why God would allow his family to suffer through no fault of their own, why they came so close to bankruptcy due to the plunge in world cattle sales when their own livestock were not infected. With the restoration of the ranch he is now not only able to return to the work he loves, but he brings with him the ability to care properly for his own livestock. He and his wife to be will be able to work as well in veterinary medicine in their area.
His life and his character were changed for the better by a situation that seemed tragic at the time. He is grateful to God.
Not all suffering results in such obvious ultimate joy and restoration of fortune, but if you are suffering unjustly in some form perhaps it is good to start to look for possible character and life changing outcomes that are better than the immediate pain and sorrow. Perhaps when life seems grossly unfair it is good to look back at how other times of suffering have changed us for the better.
There is no formula to guarantee joy coming from all suffering, no pat answers to be given when trials occur in our lives, but perhaps looking for possibilities of what we can learn and change because of them is a place to start seeking redemption in our circumstances.