We all face suffering in some way, shape or form. In our pain, we long to know why God allows grief and hardship into our lives. It's common to wonder if our suffering is God's Will. People often hold only one view of suffering; however, the Bible does not have one approach to suffering but many. To pick up one theme of suffering in Scripture is to miss the entire picture. The Bible’s approach to the problem of suffering makes it clear that discernment is necessary every step of the way. As Christians, we need to listen to the whole biblical narrative to appreciate its multifaceted handling of the problem. If the Bible offers a range of perspectives on God and suffering, then we must be willing to sort and weigh them when we are faced with difficulty. It’s also important that we recognize that our suffering doesn’t happen without purpose. This doesn’t mean that the Bible doesn’t tell us how to think about our suffering now, it actually equips us. Here are five biblical reasons why God allows suffering.
To Prepare Us For the Trials and Complexity of Life
Suffering can show up in many ways. The Bible doesn’t diminish our experience of suffering. Instead, it recognizes the complexity of suffering and how it comes upon us. Scripture tells us, “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). In these verses, Paul is referring to multiple types of suffering – mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. What makes this experience complex is the fact that when suffering comes, several of these types of suffering are often involved which can take a major toll on our spirit. It’s important that we recognize that suffering is a battleground. The book of Job offers great insight on the two ways we can choose to respond to suffering. One way is to curse God because of our suffering and the other is to praise God, even in the midst of our suffering.
To See the Magnitude of His Love
When we think of suffering, we often think of God being far away from us. Yet, God will carry us through some of the darkest seasons of our lives to show His incredible love for us. Sometimes the emotional or physical pain of suffering is prolonged. It can continue for weeks, months, even years. This pain can be intense. We may hurt so badly that even those who try to bring comfort feel the pain. If you’re going through a tough time, take heart. The Lord is sovereign and He controls all adversity in our lives. That’s why it’s imperative that when we are going through a time of trial and suffering that we remember how much God loves us. If He allows us to go through pain, suffering and loss, then He has something good He wants us to accomplish.
It Reminds Us of the Reality of Sin
Each of us knows firsthand what it means to suffer as a result of someone else’s sin. We have all been the victims of the evil choices of others. Evil words and actions have left great marks on our hearts, minds and bodies. Because of this, some people will get angry with God, believing He did nothing to stop the sin that unfolded. Yet, none of us is innocent. We too have played the role of sinner, harming others with the choices we make. Sin lurks at each of our doors. We, like Cain must battle our fear, insecurity, shame, resentment and anger. Failing to recognize or master these things often creates suffering for others.
To Help Us Grow in Community
Suffering happens in community and we have a responsibility to be of support and aid to those who are suffering around us. Paul alludes this in Galatians 6:2, when he writes, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The church is not meant to be an association of loosely bound individuals but a community of individuals bound together. The church is also meant to be a refuge for those who are suffering. When someone in our church is hurting, the church tends to that member’s wounds. When a member is down and discouraged, the church is called to lift that person up. When someone in the church is in need, we are to come alongside them to help them through their suffering.
It Allows Us to Minister
The comfort of God that we can extend to others isn’t limited to the church and is not limited to shared experience. Paul writes, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose,” (Romans 8:28). Paul’s idea is not that we must suffer the same thing as another person in order to minister the hope and comfort of God. What is needed is an experience of deliverance from affliction, comfort in grief and restoration in brokenness. These experiences remind us of who God is and what He can do. They are a silent testimony of healing and wholeness that enable one to invite God to be present in the pain of another.
While this may be a hard truth to understand, suffering is that it prepares Christians for more glory. Paul writes, “This light of momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look to the things that are not seen but 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). One of the first things we think of when it comes to suffering is that we must avoid it at all costs, but God brings suffering in our lives for the sake of our eternal joy and glory, even if we can’t understand why at this time. Suffering prepares us in a way that a life without suffering never could.
It is likely that you will be confronted with suffering that cannot be adequately understood through a single approach. When the complexity of suffering rears us its head, we will find ourselves ill-equipped to deal with the ramifications. But when we engage with Scripture and understand what the Bible has to say about suffering, it can broaden our perspective and enable us to make sense of our circumstances in a new way.