Suffering is defined as the state of undergoing pain, distress or hardships. Pain comes in all forms- physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and relationally. Suffering in this world is undeniable- it’s all around us. We see it in natural disasters, incurable disease, broken relationships, aging bodies and death. So what’s the point? Why do we suffer?
The wrong understanding of suffering can deceive us into believing that it’s arbitrary and purposeless. It will cause us to question God’s motives and His love for us when we face the hard realities of life.
How we view pain and suffering will most definitely affect our journey through trials and tribulations. In this article, we will outline what the Bible says about why we suffer, what purpose it serves and who God is in the midst of suffering.
Why do we suffer?
The concept of suffering entered the world at the fall of Adam and Eve. The moment they chose to disobey… everything changed. Sin entered the world. Consequently, our world has suffering in all forms- physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally and relationally. However we aren’t built for pain. We were made for glory.
Will we always suffer?
In fact, once you surrender your life to Christ making Him your Savior and Lord- you have the hope of an eternity apart from suffering. One day there will be no more suffering. Pain will be completely eradicated in the new heaven and earth. The day will come when there are no more tears or crying, no more pain or mourning. That time is still yet future for us.
Presently, we all face seasons of suffering. Pain is not optional, rather it is part of living in this world. Jesus plainly states, “In this world you will have trouble”. Suffering comes directly from God, Satan, our own sinful choices or as a natural consequence of living in a broken world.
Outlining all these facts about suffering doesn’t remove the fact that pain hurts. Suffering is not something we likely ask God for more of. We are pleasure driven people. Pain repels. Our brain dislikes it and tries to find the fastest way out.
Suffering is a Gift
We know that God is in control- so He can limit suffering. He determines how much pain the enemy can inflict. God also determines how much of the natural consequences we face. He determines the extent of the impact of living in a fallen world. But suffering that comes directly from God? That can be a tougher truth to swallow. God is good. Pain is bad…right?
In Psalm 55:22, it says, “Cast your burdens on the Lord and he will sustain you – he will never let the righteous be shaken.”
In doing a word study on “burdens”, I found something that is counterintuitive. In the Hebrew, the word, burden means- that which is given by God. When we layer that truth with the character of God- Like God being sovereign over all things and He is the father of every good and perfect gift… Could it be that suffering is actually a gift?
Could it be that suffering is actually a gift?
Remember- how we view suffering will shape our journey through suffering. What would our seasons of trials and tribulations be like if we viewed it as a gift. Not just any gift, but a gift from God Himself? Do you lean into God? Do you wait expectantly to see all that He purposes to harvest from this pain? Or do you lean into finding the fastest way out? Do you value the comfort of no pain more than the fruit that follows?
Why do we suffer?
Suffering has so many elements that are mysterious– requiring a stretching of faith in God. We have to be purposeful in putting our faith in that which we hope for and do not see. The question, “Why do we suffer?”, comes up because we are seeking specific answers. Our brain wants to fill in the gaps of missing information. If we could just know “why” maybe we could fix it. Fixing it might help us avoid future pain. It’s no easy task to trust God and accept the mystery in suffering.
Scriptures on Purpose in Pain
While we don’t know the specifics- God’s Word does instill hope- there is purpose in the pain that we face.
Suffering increases our reliance on God and decreases the reliance on ourselves according to 2 Corinthians 1:9. When we come to the end of ourselves we grasp onto God. Corrie ten Boom says, “You can never learn that Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have.”
Suffering brings glory to God (John 9:3). Only our mighty God can turn ashes into beauty, mourning into joy and despair into praise. In God’s economy, nothing is wasted.
Thirdly, suffering makes us strong, firm and steadfast according to 1 Peter 5:10, exponentially growing our faith. Increased strength and faith only makes us more prepared for the future!
Suffering prepares us to comfort and encourage others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) through the suffering that we’ve already endured. I bet you can think of a time God kept bringing people into your life that you encouraged with your experience going through the fire.
Pain changes you and your desires. Through suffering we are refined in ways that change us from the inside out. We become even more like Jesus through our suffering.
Suffering becomes part of your story, your testimony (Revelation 12:11). Your testimony is a testament of God’s faithfulness. It brings glory to God, strengthens your faith and encourages others.
Suffering hurts – it’s painful without a doubt.
However our view of suffering will change our journey through it. When we view God is Sovereign over our suffering we can praise him, knowing we are going to reap the benefits beyond anything we can imagine. We will look for how He will grow us through our suffering.
When we view suffering as arbitrary, we will question God’s motives and His love for us. Rather than lean into our Father, we will grit our teeth and barely push through in our own strength. Always looking for the fastest way out.
What fruit has suffering yielded in your life? How would viewing suffering as a gift from the Most High change your view of it and your journey through it?
More on the Storms of Life here.
More on the Sovereignty of God here.