After the last post, I thought it’d be nice to write something on the topic of suffering. Because of how much suffering we go through in life-it comes in different degrees, shapes, and shades for everyone- there is a temptation to begin to see all these sufferings as mindless and purposeless
But can these sufferings, difficulties, and hardships which cause us pain that ranges from mild to insane be really stupid and pointless?
The origin of suffering
The LORD God formed man of dust from the ground (Gen 2:7) and The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Gen 2:16). But not long after, the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise. She took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (Gen 3:6)
You know what happened next. To the woman He [God] said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband,And he will rule over you.”
Then to Adam He [God] said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.” – Gen 3:16-19 (emphasis added).
Pain and suffering are direct consequences of the fall and are for all men. Job understood this and said man is born for trouble (Job 5:7), and that our lives are full of turmoil (Job 14:1). The preacher in Ecclesiastes 2:22-23 said- For what does a man get in all his labor and in his striving with which he labors under the sun? Because all his days his task is painful and grievous; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is vanity.
Do God’s many promises not exempt Christians from suffering?
God’s children are not exempt from suffering! 2 Tim 3:12 is clear on this- Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (emphasis added). And Paul told the Philippians, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil 1:29, emphasis added). Our own Lord was troubled (John 13:21) and wept (John 11:33). Paul also was afflicted in every way, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down (2 Cor 4:8-9), and we also will face various frustrations, disappointment, pain, disease, and eventually death (except we are among those who see our Lord at His coming). You see, the “your best life now” message of Joel Osteen is simply not true. I mean what best life now? Paul and a lot of other Christians in history whose personal experiences included huge sufferings would struggle with that kind of nonsensical message. It’s not true to the bible and it’s definitely not true to the experiences of many godly people. Or why is Ps 34:19 in the bible: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all.” There’s also Ps 119:75: “I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” Ps 71:20 also stands as a witness: “You who have shown me many troubles and distresses Will revive me again”
Moreover, the bible, in addition to the many testimonies of people’s sufferings, teaches us that God the Father in His wisdom uses these already ubiquitous hardships to achieve His own purposes in the lives of His children.
Are there any purposes to our sufferings?
I’ll quote some examples of troubles and sufferings people faced in the bible to prove this.
Example 1– Luke 22:31-32: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (emphasis added).
Comment: Peter’s trial put him on the path to better help others in his life.
Cross Reference: Heb 2:18 is helpful to see this point- “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”
Example 2- Phil 4:11: “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (emphasis added).
Comment: Paul’s sufferings and trials helped wean him from his dependence on worldly things and teach him how to rely on God and you know what I love most about this point? That Paul has gone through all that is able to better help others in his life (point 1 above).
Cross Reference: John 6:5-6 is also helpful: “Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.”
Example 3- 2 Cor 12:7: Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!
Comments: sufferings help us to cultivate humility most especially and other Christian characters.
Cross Reference: Heb 12:11: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
Ps 119:71: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.”
Suffering is a common thread of humanity. Everyone suffers, some great, some small. But our heavenly Father sovereignly uses these same sufferings and trials for His glorious purpose in the lives of His children. This is the good thing about our sufferings, they are not without purpose. They are always necessary!