When we are suffering, we sometimes ask why. Why does God allow me to go through this? There are philosophical explanations, but that’s not usually what we’re looking for; we’re looking for assurance of God’s love, comfort in the midst of pain.
God alone knows why He allowed this or that bad thing to happen to His children. But the apostle Peter does give us a general idea that Christian suffering is purposeful: it refines our faith. He acknowledges that the believers to whom he is writing “may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6-7, NIV).
Faith is precious in God’s sight, and so He refines our faith like people refine gold, to remove impurities. Notice, in fact, that faith is not compared with gold so much as contrasted with it; people regard gold as precious, but it’s just a perishable thing–faith is truly precious. If we think it worthwhile to subject ‘mere’ perishable gold to a fiery refining process, how much more should we recognize the worthwhileness of God’s refining work upon our spiritual life!
Understanding this does not take away the pain of suffering. But it should give us courage. Suffering, for Christians, is purposeful. God will use what we suffer, even the hatred we receive from those who hate God, to strengthen and refine us. The end result will be a glorious commendation from God, when Jesus is vindicated at the last day.