Sometimes there is no visible silver lining, no redeeming value in sight. Sometimes those who endure difficulty feel that nothing is left but an empty shell. Some people never recover physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It is not guaranteed that we will emerge on the other side of pain strengthened by the experience. It would be naive to suggest that suffering universally results in growth. S. Cairns suggests a more nuanced perspective as he elaborates on Simone Weil’s observation that “affliction compels us to recognize as real what we do not think possible.” He observes:
The occasions of our suffering are capable of revealing what our habitual illusions often obscure, keeping us from knowing. Our afflictions drag us — more or less kicking — into a fresh and vivid awareness that we are not in control of our circumstances, that we are not quite whole, that our days are salted with affliction.
I dare to suggest, however, that when we undergo trials, the biblical way to pray is for strength to carry on and acquit ourselves well. We should seek to honor God when life is at its lowest. We should strive to trust him even when hope is gone.
–John Walton, Job (The NIV Application Commentary)
These are things we need to pray for people who are suffering. I’ve said it before–if we only pray for healing, we are probably doing the sufferer a great disservice. Which is more important, temporal healing, which may or may not happen, or, if they are a believer, things that are Scripturally in God’s will and are a part of eternal things? (Both would be great.)
Many times in the Western world, we don’t see those suffering. Usually, the worse the suffering, the less likely we are to see them. So we go on thinking that as life goes on we make more money, really bad things shouldn’t happen to believers, otherwise they don’t have enough faith or somebody hasn’t laid hands on them yet, and it’s always darkest before the dawn. Not to sound morbid, but it can always get darker.
Some insist on going out in “faith”, testing God, and guessing His will, without praying for anything else. Praying is not gambling with God’s will. Certainly pray for the temporal situation and people’s physical needs. Pray for whatever bad is happening to stop. But pray for things that are definitely God’s will as what’s found in Scripture, and you will be participating as a slave of Christ in shaping that person’s or people’s lives. Use Paul’s prayers if you would like help in that regard.