My husband David remembers sitting in chapel in Bible college when a speaker said that a person can not be used significantly by God until he has been hurt deeply. David also remembers feeling that if significant suffering is what is required to be used significantly by God, then perhaps he would rather not be used.
Most of us who are honest feel the same way. We want to be used by God and we might be willing to suffer some, but we want to determine the timing and intensity and method. The truth is, we want our grand abilities and keen insights to make us usable to God, not our broken hearts and crippling weaknesses.
I’ve heard variations of the same statement David heard in chapel throughout the years, and when putting together a collection of material by classic and contemporary theologians and Bible teachers about suffering for Be Still My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering, I looked for where this quote might have originated.
I found something similar by A.W. Tozer, included in his book, The Root of the Righteous where he wrote, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.” What I found most intriguing is the context in which Tozer makes the statement. He draws a picture that helps us to see the sense in his hard-hitting proposition:
The flaming desire to be rid of every unholy thing and to put on the likeness of Christ at any cost is not often found among us. We expect to enter the everlasting kingdom of our Father and to sit down around the table with sages, saints and martyrs; and through the grace of God, maybe we shall; yes maybe we shall. But for the most of us it could prove at first an embarrassing experience. Ours might be the silence of the untried soldier in the presence of the battle-hardened heroes who have fought the fight and won the victory and who have scars to prove that they were present when the battle was joined.
Tozer continues by saying that it is “necessary” for God to use suffering in his holy work of preparing his saints, adding, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.”
I don’t think this means that we are to look for experiences of suffering if we want to be used by God. Living in this broken world, few of us have to look for it. It finds us. But then we have the choice—will we see this as God being unkind or uncaring toward us? Or will we see in our suffering the loving hand of God preparing us for usefulness in this world, and purifying us for an eternity in his presence?
Do you know of another variation on this quote from someone other than Tozer?