It is common to hear some Christians say that suffering is not something that should happen to God-fearing people. In some contexts, it is argued that suffering is a sign that God is not happy with you. Those experiencing any form of suffering are told that if only they trust God, he will take it away. Is this practical?
We all know that suffering is part of the human life, as long as Jesus tarries. The question is not whether we are to suffer, but how we should suffer. A most practical way to face and persevere in suffering without cursing God, as Job’s wife asked him to do, is to have right beliefs. It is best to embrace what Scripture says to us about suffering, and to affirm it when suffering does come. The starting point for this practice is first of all to accept the fact that as followers of Christ, we are called not to a suffering-free life but rather to expect it. What is the evidence for this?
- Suffering along with faith is God’s gift to us (Phil. 1:29).
- According to Peter, suffering is what we have been called to (1 Peter 2:20-21).
- Suffering provides us with an opportunity to make a defense for what we have believed (1 Peter 3:14-15).
- Suffering dishonor for the sake of Christ’s name is worth rejoicing over (Acts 5:41).
- True children of God will suffer, and we must suffer with Christ in order to enjoy eternity with him (Rom. 8:17).
- Suffering purifies our faith and prepares us for glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7; Rom. 5:3).
- We are destined for affliction, and those who hear the gospel must also hear that they must expect affliction (1 Thess. 3:3-4).
- Our suffering testifies to God’s power (2 Cor. 12:8-10).
- We are not better than Jesus, who suffered for us not because of any sin on his part. If he was persecuted, how much more his followers (John 15:20)?
- We have the example of Jesus to follow in suffering (1 Peter 2:21-23).
- Our sufferings become a means of comfort for fellow believers (2 Cor. 1: 3-7).
- Suffering causes us to rely not on ourselves but on God who delivers us (2 Cor. 1:8-11).
The next time someone says to you that suffering is not your portion or that God does not want his children to suffer, tell them to get behind you for they are not speaking in accordance with the truth of Scripture. Those who shun suffering in the name of spirituality may find in the end that they have no place in the kingdom of God. It is indeed through much suffering and affliction that we will enter the kingdom of heaven.
You are I are called to suffer and to honor God in our suffering. We will suffer well (for the glory of God) only when we focus not on our present temporary afflictions but on the reality of our future glory (2 Cor. 4:17-18; Rom. 8:18).
May God grant us to suffer well like Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).