What the Bible says about suffering

by Xavier Hamilton – 24 January 2017 

 

Suffering isWhat the bible says about suffering one of the challenging areas to fathom for unbelievers and Christians. The question that underpins this challenge is – how could a loving God allow suffering to continue? And at the most challenging times this can tarnish our view of and relationship with God. 
 
Suffering means to undergo great distress, hardship or pain at the hand of adverse situations. There are different causes of suffering recorded in the Bible. Scripture reveals that there are times when some are plagued with a demonic spirit (Mark 5:1-20), sickness, accidents and natural disasters (Job 1 and 2), consequences of personal sins, or the sins of others, bereavement, depression and persecution from witnessing for Christ (Acts 7) etc. 
 
In a world tarnished by sin, suffering is an aspect of its nature from which Christians are not excluded. Suffering intruded into the Creation as a result of an act of disobedience by man not God. As a consequence all of Creation has been subject to the perils and destructions that suffering brings (Romans 8:20-22). The resurrection does not remove the suffering that Jesus Christ endured on the cross, rather, it demonstrates the eternal triumph over sin, the death and the grave. As the final redemption of the believer has not been consummated, a world without suffering is in the future prepared for those who are born again. 
 
We live in the times of the already but not yet. The implication of this is that Christians as well as non-Christians still go through suffering but the Christian has the assurance of peace and strength from God in the midst of it. Hence there is the need to accept that God allows Christians to relate to all suffering in a way that brings good, such as the perfection of faith, maturation and the intimacy between God and others (Romans 5:3-4). Paul in Philippians 3:10 put it like this, "I want to know Him, yes, to know the power His resurrection and participation in His suffering, becoming like him in His death". 
 
There are also a number of beneficial reasons that can be identified with suffering. Firstly the knowledge that Jesus is with us in times of suffering and persecution, seeking to perfect our faith. Also through suffering, God develops discipline and refining of character, which enhances personal potential. 

The divine nature of God means that He can use anything that we deem as being bad or negative to glorify Himself. Lazarus died and his sisters came to Jesus with their grief and regret, but Jesus’ response, "this illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the son of God may be glorified" (John 11: 1-44) provides some insight into God’s ability to use any situation to bring His glory.  
 
There are always opportunities for God to be glorified through His deliverance of His people and those who experienced suffering may be candidates through whom Jesus might be glorified. Similarly Job had experienced suffering, which made those around him question the God he served. When God revealed Himself to Job (Job 38-41), during his calamity, Job learnt an aspect of God out of his ordeal and responded to God with the words, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5). Trials such as Job’s are recognised as being an aspect of the life of the believer and given to build maturity and growth. As James wrote, believers should consider various trials as a joy because faith is tested through this, which gives birth to patience (James 1: 2-4). 

 


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