In an interview with his online ministry desiringGod.org, founder, teacher, and renowned pastor John Piper explains how Christians should react to and interpret the afflictions life throws at them.
Pastor John Piper's interview comes as an answer to a reader's question which asked, "When God brings suffering into our lives, how can we discern if that suffering should be met with patience and endurance, or with immediate life evaluation and alteration?"
To answer the question, Piper first explained what this concerned reader was referring to between the two types of suffering actions.
Piper elaborates that from the Bible, Christians should know that God has two reasons for allowing us to endure suffering. The first being that "he may discern a specific pattern of sin in our lives to which he directly responds with some kind of trouble or suffering in our lives to wake us up, and refine us, and to heal us, and to bring us to repentance because he loves us."
The second reason he states for our possible suffering is "that sometimes we are being given in our affliction an opportunity to magnify the grace of God through faith and patience and love." So, as to the bigger question of how does one know whether they are being "refined" for their sins, or tested in their faith, Piper illustrates that the answer is both.
"The line between them is permeable. Another way to say it would be that those two kinds of responses from God to our situation always overlap, which means, practically, that there is never a situation in life where we should not respond with self-evaluation... The goal is the same in both: If there are specific sins in our lives, the goal of Christ-exalting steadfastness includes recognizing and repenting of and moving out of those sins. If no specific sins are manifest, then the goal is still the same: magnify Christ through faith and repentance and love."
Although it can be difficult to understand why God would bring pain to our lives, John Piper encourages to take the suffering in stride and use it to better understand and appreciate his love and grace.