Progress and growth are also secured by sufferings. All nature declares it. Growth, development, increase, is by that expanding power which creates a creak and a groan and an ache within the organism; and in the spiritual life it is like that. We speak about growing pains. I believe that is considered to be unscientific now, but it is a very useful phrase. Yes, there are growing pains, and the sufferings of Christ in the members of His Body are related to growth. The difference is this, that in what we have called growing pains it is the growing that is actually taking place which causes the pains, while here, in what we have before us, it is the pains which produce the growth afterward. We grow by means of suffering, there is no doubt about it. Show me a mature spiritual life, and you show me the embodiment of much suffering of some kind – not always physical – a life which has gone through things. Paul found his turning point there “that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead”; a new discovery from the depths. Where he touched bottom, he discovered God in a new way-”God who raiseth the dead”. Such knowing of Him comes along that line. The values of suffering are there.
But then note what he says again “God… who comforteth us in all our affliction, that we may be able…” Oh, there is a lot in that! That speaks of stock in trade, the means for service, does it not? We may often have bad times about our lack of ability in many ways, comparing ourselves with other people and deploring our lack of ability in this and that. Oh, for ability! But what is the greatest ability after all? The best and most fruitful ability is to be able to help people in the deep experiences of spiritual life; to be able to explain to them the meaning of God’s dealings with them, to be able to show them what is intended to be the outcome of it all, to be able to give them some support by counsel which comes from real knowledge – some of that comfort which we ourselves have received of God. That is real service, that is, building up the Body of Christ, the House of God – being really able, in a spiritual way, to strengthen the sorrowing. That comes through suffering.