Everyone who follows Jesus will experience suffering – physical and emotional pain or distress. The issue is not that we will suffer, but how should we respond to our physical, emotional, and spiritual distress. How we respond is critical. The Bible says there are at least 14 proper ways we can respond to suffering.
Scripture is thoroughly realistic about the place of suffering in the world and the lives of believers. To become a Christian is not to escape from pain, but to suffer with dignity and hope. It reveals how mature our faith is. So, how should we respond to suffering so that we grow in our faith?
Since the Fall, human beings have suffered in various ways. Scripture provides insights into the nature and place of suffering in the world and our personal lives.
Why Do We Suffer?
Why do we suffer? Suffering began with the Fall. The Fall caused a disorder in creation (Genesis 2:17; 3:16-19; Romans 5:12). This disorder resulted in Satanic activity (1 John 5:19), human cruelty (Genesis 4:8; Exodus 1:11; Psalm 54:3), old age (Psalm 71:9), and all kinds of family troubles (Psalm 27:10). Moreover, we suffer because God wants to do something in us. He desires to:
- Produce the fruit of joy
- Keep us from sin
- Teach us
- Glorify him
- Prove we belong to him
- Qualify us as counselors
- Be examples to others
- Give us more insight into his nature
- Draw us closer to him
- Advance the witness of the gospel in the world
Different Kinds of Suffering
The Fall of Adam and Eve unleashed different kinds of pain and distress in the world.
- Physical (Genesis 48:1)
- Emotional stress (Psalm 55:4-5)
- Spiritual distress (Psalm 22:1)
- The prospect of death (Genesis 3:19)
Painful memories, fears, resentment, and sin aggravate our pain and distress. Now, sin and suffering are sometimes closely related (Romans 1:18; Acts 5:5, 10). However, they are not necessarily related (John 9:3). In other words, personal sin sometimes causes us to suffer but is not always the cause of our pain and distress.
Effects of Suffering
Suffering impacts our lives. There are at least three effects suffering can have on a person’s life. Pain and suffering can sometimes lead to:
- Hardness of heart (Exodus 7:22; Revelation 16:9)
- Repentance (2 Chronicles 33:12; Luke 15:17-18)
- Blessing (Psalm 119:71; Isaiah 38:17)
How Should We Respond to Suffering?
- Expect it (John 15:19-20; John 16:33).
- Don’t try to understand all the reasons for it (Romans 8:28).
- Remember, you are not the only one going through it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
- Commit your soul to God at the very beginning of it (Proverbs 3:5-6).
- Pray while you’re going through it (Psalm 50:15).
- Don’t despise it (Hebrews 12:5).
- Endure it patiently (Romans 12:12; 2 Timothy 2:3).
- Thank God for it (Psalm 42:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:18).
- Make sure you’re not suffering needlessly (1 Peter 2:20).
- Don’t give up (Proverbs 24:10; Hebrews 12:5).
- Praise and worship God in the midst of it (Job 1:20-21).
- Rejoice in it (Acts 5:40-41).
- Don’t become independent in the midst of it (Hebrews 12:12-13).
- Weigh your current suffering in light of the coming glory (John 16:20-21; Romans 8:18).
None of us likes to suffer. However, if we respond to suffering correctly, then God will use our sufferings to build character, patient endurance, and make us a source of comfort and blessing for others.
How do you tend to respond to suffering?
Review the list above. With which response do you have the most difficulty?