We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
I have never heard anyone say, “The really deep lessons of my life have come through times of ease and comfort.” But I have heard strong saints say, “Every significant advance I have ever made in grasping the depths of God’s love and growing deep with him, has come through suffering.”
This is a sobering biblical truth. For example: “For [Christ’s] sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). Paraphrase: No pain, no gain. Or:
Now let it all be sacrificed, if it will get me more of Christ.
Here’s another example: “Although he was a son, [Jesus] learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). The same book said he never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).
So learning obedience does not mean switching from disobedience to obedience. It means growing deeper and deeper with God in the experience of obedience. It means experiencing depths of yieldedness to God that would not have been otherwise attained. This is what came through suffering. No pain, no gain.
Samuel Rutherford said that when he was cast into the cellars of affliction, he remembered that the great King always kept his wine there. Charles Spurgeon said, “They who dive in the sea of affliction bring up rare pearls.”
Do you not love your beloved more when you feel some strange pain that makes you think you have cancer? We are strange creatures indeed. If we have health and peace and time to love, it can become a thin and hasty thing. But if we are dying, love becomes a deep, slow river of inexpressible joy, and we can scarcely endure to give it up.
Therefore brothers and sisters, “Count it all joy . . . when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2).