I was reading John Bunyan this morning and the following passage struck me as very helpful. Bunyan explains that in time of suffering and pain, God grants us sweet grace that we would not otherwise taste if it were not for the bitterness of our affliction. He writes:
There is also a patience of hope; a rejoicing in hope, when we are in tribulation, that is, over and above that which we have when we are at ease and quiet. That also that all graces can endure, and triumph over, shall not be known, but when, and as we are in a state of affliction. Now these acts of our graces are of that worth and esteem with God, also he so much delighteth in them: that occasion through his righteous judgment, must be ministered for them to shew their beauty, and what bravery there is in them.
It is also to be considered that those acts of our graces, that cannot be put forth, or shew themselves in their splendour, but when we Christianly suffer, will yield such fruit to those whose trials call them to exercise, that will, in the day of God, abound to their comfort, and tend to their perfection in glory (1 Peter 1:7; 2 Cor 4:17).
Why then should we think that our innocent lives will exempt us from sufferings, or that troubles shall do us such harm? For verily it is for our present and future good that our God doth send them upon us. I count therefore, that such things are necessary for the health of our souls, as bodily pains and labour are for [the health of the body.
Alas! we have need of those bitter pills, at which we so winch and shuck: and it will be well if at last we be purged as we should thereby… I see that I still have need of these trials; and if God will by these judge me as he judges his saints, that I may not be condemned with the world, I will cry, Grace, grace for ever.
— John Bunyan in Seasonable Counsel; or Advice to Sufferers (1684)