The Purpose of Suffering

Almost three years had passed, since our daughter’s illness, but the pain hadn’t lifted. It wrapped around me like a lead blanket. Peter, Jesus’ disciple and I were buds.

“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.” Matt. 4:18 ESV

Peter the fisherman, spent a lot of time repairing nets. It’s where Jesus first found him. It’s the livelihood he left behind to follow Jesus.

Mending nets filled much of a fisherman’s life, perhaps even more than fishing. Painstaking care went into cleaning and drying the linen fabric or it would rot and wear out, rendering it virtually useless.

Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch,” Jesus told Peter. It was an invitation from the God of Creation to a man who knew fish.

Regardless of having worked all night and having caught nothing, the fisherman obeyed. A miracle catch filled their nets to the point of breaking. They called for help from another boat, and the catch overwhelmed both boats to almost sinking. It was enough for Peter, with the heart and vocation of a fisherman, to fall down at Jesus’ knees in repentance and belief.

But Peter, the disciple had holes in his net.

A fisherman and a mom had a lot in common. 

“I am so broken, Lord. I am so broken,” I cried. “I don’t think I will ever get fixed, and I don’t know if I can live with that.”

Stacks of my journals bled with sorrow. “I feel like the Lord should lift my grief,” I wrote, “pump air into this cloud so it doesn’t overwhelm with its heaviness. But, I’m completely devoured.”

Paralyzed physically, my daughter slowly regained bits of progress, and life re-invented itself, different and unimaginable. Time like bandages covered two horrific years, a teeter-totter between life and death.

Yet, in spite of passing time, I felt immobilized, unable to go forward.

“I see so much of me in Peter. I am so hole-y,” I wrote in my journal.

Jesus knew the heart and mind of Peter, He understood Peter’s weak spots, yet Jesus loved him. And He loved me in all my brokenness as well.

Scripture tells stories of Peter that bring him to life as a person, raw, human and full of holes.

He boasted. He acted rashly. Impulsive, impetuous, Peter got tangled in self-sufficiency and pride. He lacked tact. He spoke without thinking and acted without restraint. He was at times a coward and other times overtly bold. He demonstrated unruly passion. He got mad and made promises he couldn’t fulfill. He doubted.

Yup, I related well to Peter. 

“…When you have returned to Me,” Jesus told him shortly before the soldiers came to take Him, “strengthen your brethren.” Lk. 22:32 (NKJV).

Jesus predicted His abandonment, but Peter would have none of it.

“If I must die with you, I will not deny you,” Peter promised. Mark 14: 31 ESV

In the heat of the crisis, when His Master had greatest need of him, Peter hotly decried any knowledge of Christ.

After the greatest happening in history, after the power of God was revealed in the resurrection of Jesus, after Peter had seen the empty tomb and witnessed the resurrected Christ, Peter went fishing. Jesus met him there.

“Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some fish,” the resurrected Christ invited. “…So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish…” 

Suffering isn’t pleasant, it’s purposeful. 

I looked for a miracle, and learned Jesus was enough.  

“So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them.” 

Precisely.

And although there were so many, the net was not torn.” John 21:6;11 ESV

Years later, an older Peter penned these words; “And after you have suffered a little while,” Peter wrote,“ 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 ESV 

He used the same word that fishermen use to mend their nets, a word he must have used often, known well.

Katartizo,”to mend what has been broken, to repair, to make complete, the way it ought to be, restore even better than before.

Repairs can look messy, but the residual effects if received with surrender and trust add strength and completeness.

While we seek to remove, shorten, placate suffering, God looks at it from a completely different perspective. He wants our pain to serve the purpose for which He has allowed it. He seeks to fix what’s broken, put the pieces back together, whole and complete.

“…When you have returned to Me,” Jesus had said when he predicted Peter’s denial, “strengthen your brethren.”

Character holes became testaments of transformation through a Risen Christ.

Peter, forsaker of Jesus, later strengthened his brothers in their faith as Jesus had asked him to do.

God used Peter in astounding ways within the birth and growth of His church. The Apostle became what his name suggested; a steadfast rock, reliable, a leader and proclaimer of the gospel.

Embracing suffering as part of God’s perfecting rebuilds shoddy workmanship and gives it promise of greatness yet to come. And that is the miracle.

“ the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Suffering is not wasted. It has purpose.

25 Replies

  1. Debbie Wilson Reply

    Sylvia, sometimes it easier to suffer ourselves than to see someone we love suffer. That causes a different kind of suffering. I enjoyed how you connected this to Peter and our Lord’s transforming power.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you Debbie. I am grateful for the absolute faithfulness of Jesus through these years. Like I mentioned, Peter and I have become buds!

  2. Jan Puffenbeger Reply

    Thank you for this post, Sylvia. A quote that stays in my heart is “And acceptance, through Christ, is the answer to all my problems today”. Not easy sometimes. But, if I sit down while walking through the tunnel of grief, anger, etc., I will never see the light at the end of that tunnel and learn the lesson God has in store for me. You are so right that out of great suffering come beautiful testimonies.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks Jan. I appreciate that so much. I am so grateful for the many blessings all of us have received through these years. God is faithful.

  3. Mary Neir Reply

    Appreciate your transparency and challenge from God’s Word.
    God bless you!

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you Mary. Always appreciate you and your comments! God is faithful.

  4. Dwight Lehman Reply

    Wow Sylvia, you make it so clear! Thank you for an article that made me pause and thank God for His purpose in the “little bit” of suffering I have endured.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks Dwight. I am so glad you enjoyed it. There is certainly no measuring stick for suffering. All of it is difficult! But God is definitely faithful.

  5. Roland Walter Reply

    It encouraged me to know that you felt that weight of grief for so long. It helps me take the long view. I feel more normal. I needed to read this today.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank so much Rolly. Suffering doesn’t have a time table or measuring stick. God is faithful. I’m so grateful you found it helpful.

  6. Lois S. Reply

    Thanks for sharing Sylvia. You all went through such a hard and challenging time with your daughter. It is a blessing to hear of some of the fruit that has come of it. And your writing is an encouragement to persevere when we face our own suffering.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks Lois. It was rough, and I still find it difficult, but I am very grateful for a Father who is faithful and good.

  7. Katherine Pasour Reply

    I, too, identify with Peter–broken, messy, failing in my promises to God. But like Peter, and many others, God put me back together for His purpose. I’m not perfect (far from it), but I keep trying to serve Him. Peter is a good role model for us–he shows us what we can accomplish when we give ourselves completely to God. Thank you for this inspiring message.

  8. Annie Yorty Reply

    I love how Jesus saw beyond Peter’s troubles and pointed him to the future. We can count on Him to see bring the purpose beyond our own troubles too.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Yes! Thank you Annie. I forget this sometimes. What God allows today isn’t wasted tomorrow.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Annie, thank you so much for replying. You are right. But I confess how easily I forget what I know to be true. I am so glad there is purpose.

  9. Joanna Eccles Reply

    God doesn’t waste our suffering, but uses it to refine us and make us more like Him. Thanks for sharing.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Joanna, Thanks! You are so right. His refining is really a wonderful mercy!

  10. Rachel Reply

    Three years and I continue to mourn my 36 year old son’s suicide.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Rachel, I am so very sorry for the deep pain such a loss must have caused and of course still does. Thank you for sharing. I prayed for you this morning. May the God of comfort continue to strengthen and comfort you.

  11. Diane Fuller Reply

    Sylvia, thank you for sharing how God grows us through suffering. Has your daughter shared about her suffering? I appreciated keeping up with the blog many years ago of the journey. Have you continued it on a blog post for her and her family?

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Diane, thank you for keeping up. We have had the opportunity to share together in churches on occasion, and her testimony is very much a part of her life. She doesn’t blog about it anymore. God has been gracious and I know her story continues to encourage people. We have a lot to be grateful for!

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