Few people have cultivated satisfaction in suffering.  It is difficult to see the blessing of hardship.  Even believers can develop an unbiblical worldview that assumes that suffering is the signal of God’s absence and maybe even of His displeasure.  Yet if there is no suffering, how will we ever demonstrate to the world that God is better than blessing?  If we do not experience difficulty, how will we ever show unbelievers that we do not follow God for “stuff,” but because He is God and always worthy of our worship and love, regardless of our circumstances.

This is but one benefit of suffering among many others, as John Newton knew and taught this well.  Here is an excerpt from one of his letters that repeatedly affirms the benefits contained in suffering:

…though afflictions in themselves are not joyous, but grievous, yet in due season they yield the peaceful fruits of righteousness. Various and blessed are the fruits they produce. By affliction prayer is quickened, for our prayers are very apt to grow languid and formal in a time of ease. Affliction greatly helps us to understand the Scriptures, especially the promises; most of which being made to times of trouble, we cannot so well know their fulness, sweetness, and certainty, as when we have been in the situation to which they are suited, have been enabled to trust and plead them, and found them fulfilled in our own case. We are usually indebted to affliction as the means or occasion of the most signal discoveries we are favoured with of the wisdom, power, and faithfulness of the Lord. These are best observed by the evident proofs we have that he is near to support us under trouble, and that he can and does deliver us out of it.…

Afflictions are designed likewise for the manifestation of our sincerity to ourselves and to others. When faith endures the fire, we know it to be of the right kind…Many of our graces likewise cannot thrive or shew themselves to advantage without trials; such as resignation patience, meekness, long-suffering.…

So again, it is by our own sufferings we learn to pity and sympathize with others in their sufferings such a compassionate disposition, which excites our feelings for the afflicted, is an eminent branch of the mind which was in Christ. But these feelings would be very faint, if we did not in our experience know what sorrows and temptations mean.

Afflictions do us good likewise, as they make us more acquainted with what is in our own hearts, and thereby promote humiliation and self-abasement.…

Read more of the letter at Puritan Sermons.