THE JOY AND PAIN OF SUFFERING
The question of suffering and pain is a mystery to many people. None of us likes to suffer; yet we all go through suffering time and again. Every man that has lived on earth (including Bible characters – from Adam to Jesus) encountered some form of suffering. Before His departure, Jesus had to remind his disciples about this very reality:
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you
will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (NKJV)
Have you ever gone through a situation in your life as a Christian that made you to either verbally or silently ask: “God, where were you…?” Briefly share why you asked the question.
More questions about suffering occupy the mind than there are answers. Many people wonder why:
- i. There is evil in the world in the first place
- God being the creator of all things would also allow suffering for a people He created and loves
iii. God does not eliminate Satan and all evil that causes so much suffering in the world
- The righteous suffer along with the wicked and evil doers
Primarily, no one else but God in His own way, can answer questions that surround suffering. However, it is important to note that:
- For the believers in Christ, suffering offers one the dual experience of both pain and joy.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
2.God, who is good and holy, created the earth without evil and suffering
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day.”
3.Man’s disobedience and the resultant fall paved way for the worst form of suffering on earth (death)
“But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat
from it, you will surely die.”
- Suffering is encountered by all, without exception
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.”
Suffering brings a lot of pain to everyone: both the Christian and non-Christian, male and female, young and old, master and servant, rich and the poor, etc. Pain comes in many different forms including sicknesses, poverty, affliction from wicked spirits, depression, separation, divorce etc.
CLASS DISCUSSION 2
Why do you think good people suffer?
Where does suffering come from?
i.Satan’s fall from honor and glory
Since the fall from glory Satan and the fallen angels represent an evil government on earth. The world and all its systems are under the influence of Satan. The evil and invisible government may be used by Satan to influence people and earthly kingdoms to cause pain and suffering to mankind.
Daniel 3:13, 20
“Furious with rage the king…commanded some of the strongest soldiers to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and through them into the blazing furnace.”
- Idolatry and Superstitions
Often, communities believe that the forces of evil that cause suffering are greater than the individual is able to deal with on their own. They believe that other people would of necessity come in and help.
In some circumstances, some people are required to give a sacrifice or a penalty understood and acceptable within the same community, usually to the spiritual leadership. Such suffering and pain are believed to have their root cause in factors
These factors may be such us:
- Unhappy ancestral spirits
- Evil eye & spells
- Witches, sorcerers or magic
iii.Human livelihood and actions.
Some suffering, especially in our continent, is humanly instigated. Such come from human activities such as:
- War and civil conflict with their accompanying effects
- Poverty and lack of basic needs such as housing, food and security
- Religious conflict and confusion
- Human abuses of power, drugs and other harmful substances
iv.Deliberate or ignorant deviation from divine order.
God has established a divine order that should be followed and any deviation from it attracts unpleasant consequences. Such deviations may include acts like:
These are effects closely related to the human conditions and activities and would include: Floods, drought, wild fires, earth quakes, plagues and other natural calamities.
“Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.”
vi.To display God’s glory.
Sometimes God allows us to go through difficult situations that His work may be made manifest when He intervenes.
“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? “Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” (NKJV)
The Bible gives evidences of the goodness of God in suffering.
i.Suffering builds character in us and makes us more humane.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
ii.Suffering grants us the privilege of walking the path of Christian maturity.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”.
“Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.”
iii. Suffering leads to life, breakthroughs and purpose.
“And we know that to them that love God, all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to His purpose.”
Sometimes struggles and suffering are just what we need in our lives for us to attain our highest potential. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as we ought to be. We would never fly!
Biblical Perspective on Suffering
Since we all face suffering in our lives, it is essential that we become fully aware of and embrace the biblical outlook about suffering. Your perspective will determine how you respond to suffering, which will in turn determine your relationship with God and people during the stormy moments of life.
i.Suffering leads to humility as an experience of our walk with God
It seems God has ordained that every Christian experiences some kind of pressure, afflictions, distress, and troubles.
2 Corinthians 12:7
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”
ii.Suffering is not strange for believers
If you live or work in an environment that is hostile to God, then you will definitely suffer for standing up for the Lord.
1 Peter 4:12-16
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed…
…If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”
iii.Suffering leads to Christian discipline.
Sometimes God uses the path of suffering to discipline His children, whom He loves.
“… My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked of Him…now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; never the less , afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
iv.God does not willingly cause suffering on His children
God is the source of all goodness and no evil dwells in Him.
He intends good for us even when we, out of our free choice and personal will, choose to sin against Him.
2 Peter 3:9
“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone, to perish, but everyone to repent.”
v.Rejecting God and His word can attract suffering and pain
The book of Judges describes a cyclic suffering of God’s people when they every time chose to live in disobedience to the revealed will of God.
“Then the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and He said , “Because this nation has transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded my voice, “ I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died.”
i.Repent and walk in the ways of God
Where suffering has come as a result of sin, do not justify it or defend your cause, simply return to God.
“Therefore this is what the Lord says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the Lord. “I will save you from the hands of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel.”
“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
- Be patient and learn from experience
Where you have not brought suffering upon yourself, you can only but be patient and wait on God to come through for you in His time.
2 Corinthians 12:7-9
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
iii.Count suffering for the Lord a privilege.
When we suffer for our faith, we are to consider it a privilege. The disciples rejoiced that they had suffered for Christ’s sake. Jesus Christ had endured so much for them that they wanted to bear something for Him.
“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”
iv.Keep your focus on God and trust Him fully.
The pain of suffering can be devastating if one’s focus is not on God. When you think about suffering for no apparent personal reason, Job exemplifies what it means to stand out and come through the worst of all suffering. In his suffering Job brings credit to God and demonstrates praise to Him in the midst of intense misfortune and suffering.
“And he said, Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this, Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.”
“Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.”
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes — I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”
v.Comfort those going through suffering
Going through suffering can be extremely lonely and devastating. One therefore needs the support of other believers.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”
In Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming Messiah, Jesus was referred to as Wonderful Counselor. But it appears that after Jesus had served His term on earth, He promised to “ask the Father” to send “another Counselor” to be with the disciples forever.
Though life brings us pain and suffering , we should be encouraged in the fact that even in the suffering, the soul of a Christian is well secured in God. Christ our Saviour suffered on the cross for our sake, and through Him we can face every situation with joy and confidence.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God…Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”