The Teacher No One Wants

October 21, 2022

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees.”  Psalm 119:71

Who is your favorite teacher?

Is it an elementary teacher who was cheerful and creative? A middle school teacher who helped you navigate the awkwardness of adolescence?  Or perhaps a college professor who challenged you to reach your full potential? 

Of all the amazing teachers in your past, I bet you didn’t consider the one teacher that could’ve potentially shaped your life more than any other: 


Suffering is the teacher that no one wants. Yet in the classroom of suffering, we’re offered a difficult but invaluable education that we can’t find anywhere else.

Elisabeth Elliot, whose missionary husband was murdered by the Huaorani people of Ecuador, writes, “the deepest things that I have learned in my own life have come from the deepest suffering. And out the deepest waters and hottest fires have come the deepest things I know about God.”

While there is no guarantee that we’ll have the same “deep” experiences through our suffering, Elliot’s words show us that it’s possible for suffering to teach us a great deal.  It really boils down to how we respond. 

Here’s an inescapable question:

Will suffering drive us towards the Lord, in trust – or away from Him, in bitterness?

In Psalm 119, we meet a man who responded in trust. Incidentally, he learned a tremendous amount while wading through the deep waters of suffering. 

And what were these deep waters?   

The wicked “bound him with ropes” (Psalm 119:61). He was “smeared and attacked by the arrogant” (Psalm 119:69).  

(That doesn’t sound like a fun experience!) 

But now, the situation has settled down. He’s emerged on the other side. Reflecting on his season of suffering, he testifies that it was “good for him to be afflicted” (Psalm 119:71). 

Huh?  “…it was good for him to be afflicted??” 

I mean, who makes a statement like that?

Well, contrary to how it may appear, the writer isn’t a sadist. He’s just a man who is sincerely grateful for what the Lord taught him during his terrible circumstances. He realizes that what he gained through suffering is worth far more than what it took from him. 

Looking at the surrounding verses, here’s what he gained

A greater closeness with the Lord: He used to wander off and “go astray,” but now he desires to follow the Lord more closely, realizing that God “alone is good and does what is good” (Psalm 119:67,68). In the words of Charles Stanley, “adversity can be a bridge that leads us to deeper intimacy with God.” 

A greater willingness to obey: Though surrounded by people that spurn the law of the Lord, the psalmist finds true delight in keeping the “precepts of the Lord with all his heart” (Psalm 119:69).

A greater appreciation for God’s Word: Suffering has opened his eyes to the beautiful riches in God’s word. It has become more precious to him than “thousands of pieces of silver and gold” (Psalm 119:72). 

We too can graduate from the school of suffering.

How? Having grown in intimacy, obedience, and love for the Lord and His Word.

Will it be easy? No.  

Will it happen automatically, without any effort on our part? No way. 

Yet, if we remain teachable, always listening to the heart of God, remembering that Jesus Himself is with us even in the hardest seasons of life, we’ll one day look back and be amazed at what we learned.

So, the next time you’re a student in the classroom of suffering, ask the Lord for the comfort to carry on, the strength to endure and an openness to learn what He wants to teach you.  

Written by Jonathan Munson, Executive Director, RFTH

DISCLAIMER: If you’re currently enrolled in the school of suffering, my heart goes out to you. A message like this is hard to receive and can seem insensitive. It’s difficult to talk about ‘learning’ anything when the pain is still fresh. My advice? Set this aside and reread it several weeks/months down the road.