Why does suffering exist?
Why do good people have to endure pain, and ridicule, and cancer, and tragedy? Why are so many tears shed by Christians who profess Jesus as Savior? It’s hard to answer these questions when you aren’t the one who’s seen their loved ones taken. Or their job lost. It could be a multitude of different things and from our own personal experience, it’s almost impossible to offer advice. But the Lord gives us clear direction and we’ll never shy from disseminating his Word for our benefit. Here’s some truths on suffering that have comforted and empowered us.
Our suffering is never the same.
It’s not fair to compare loss and suffering. It’s rarely the same—rarely even comparable. But we can find comfort in the fact that the Bible doesn’t try to pass our experiences as alike or even make it seem like we should bucket them under one or two categories. Instead, Paul writes, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9).
There’s more than one type of suffering. In two verses, Paul can list all sorts of types of suffering—mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. Sometimes they combine to really hit us hard, other times they’re more focused and direct. The point is that we can’t bucket our experiences and expect a one-all approach to work. The Lord recognizes that and can see us through a multitude of hurt.
Our wounds become other’s comfort.
There’s a reason that we’re together as followers of Christ. So that suffering, we’re within a community that’s striving to see the Lord’s goodness in every context. We’re provided an outlet, a place of comfort, where each of us are comforted in the face of tragedy and testimonies that show us the promise of healing. Our relationships with fellow believers push us along. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” says our good Book (Galatians 6:2). But our suffering has implications far greater than in our own lives.
“God…comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)
When you’ve experienced your own trials and mishaps—and still managed (unsurprisingly) to find God to be exactly what He says He is, you have real help to offer others. You’ll have a real, first-hand, front row seat to Christ’s grace and His purposeful motives. The Lord keeps you through suffering. You’re more like Jesus because of what you experienced. When you’re more like Jesus, you can point others to the Lord easier.
Our pain becomes our glory.
Our challenge? Looking at the Lord and saying: “Look, God. I don’t mind fighting this fight, fighting this enemy because—right now—You’ve set out for me a crown of righteousness.”
Check out Paul. He was a man knew saw what pain and suffering was, and endured. He knew Christ, fought for Christ and suffered for Christ. He never stopped. He always pressed on. He always fought towards the Lord—for His righteousness and the pursuit of Glory in the shadow of Jesus as Christ and Messiah.
Since Christ had to suffer physically for you, you must fortify yourselves with the same inner attitude that he must have had. You must realize that to be dead to sin inevitably means pain, and you should not therefore spend the rest of your time here on earth indulging your physical nature, but in doing the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-3)
This journey, this path through suffering for the Lord, isn’t an easy one. The Holy Spirit guarantees us an eternal glory that’s equal to Christ’s glory. It’s a path that’s equal to Jesus’ inheritance from God. We’ll be joint heirs with Him. This inheritance laid away for us can be expressed by our willingness to bear the reproach of Christ in our stricken world. But Paul encourages us here:
“This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17–18)
So ask yourself:
- Are you willing to be bold, faithful and clear in your testimony—so that no one at all doesn’t truly understand where you stand?
- Are you willing to speak the truth of Jesus Christ in love?
- And—if needed—are you willing to suffer humiliation and hostility and alienation, and hurt and pain?
- And not be bothered by it—but rather embrace it as the purpose of God?
All of these points, bulleted lists and sermons certainly aren’t the most comforting in the face (or the rearview mirror) of suffering. It’s perfectly okay and normal to avoid suffering as much as we possibly can. God doesn’t call us to pain needlessly. The Lord brings us suffering on account of our eternal promise in Him. For our joy. And yes, for our glory.