“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery darts which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you may partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12, 13). Suffering has been part of the human condition since our first parents fell into sin. Genesis 3:16, 17 explains it this way: “To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain shall you bring forth children; Your desire shall be toward your husband, And he shall rule over you.’ Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it: cursed is the ground for you sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And dust you shall return.”
As a direct result of Adam and Eve plunging the human race into sin their paradise existence in the Garden of Eden came to a painful end. No longer was everything prrovided for them, where their daily tasks were refreshing and delightful. Now they had to struggle against the elements in order to have food, clothing and shelter for their family. In other words, the first family came face-to-face with actual suffering.
What is the definition of suffering?
The word, “suffering,” means: agony, affliction or distress; intense pain or sorrow. The Psalms, one-third of which discuss some form of suffering, include graphic descriptions of suffering (Psalm 22). A theme of the Book of Job is the problem of suffering, and why God permits the righteous to suffer. “My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Why are so far from helping me, And from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent” (Psalm 22:1, 2).
Disobedience Leads to Suffering
Disobedience establishes a wall between us and God. Isaiah 59:1 says, “But your inquities have separated you from your God; So that He will not hear you.” Sin offends our holy God. Because God is holy, He cannot ignore, excuse, or tolerate sin as though it did not matter. Sin cuts people off from Him, forming a wall to isolate God from the very people He loves. The Bible makes it clear that some suffering is the result of evil actions or sin in the world. This type of suffering came upon mankind after the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Why do Children of God Suffer?
There are other types of suffering that are not related to past events. It is forward-looking in that it serves to shape and refine God’s children.1 Peter 1:6 comforts the saints of the Most High God: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved (distressed) by various trials, that the genuiness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The Book of Hebrews declares that Jesus Christ learned obedience by the things He suffered, and that He was perfected through suffering (Hebrews 2:10). Suffering has the potential of demonstrating God’s power (1 Corinthians 12:7).Those who suffer are in a position to comfort others. Suffering also helps the chilfren of God to identify with Christ.Through persecutions and tortures, people suffered for the sake oof Christ and His Kingdom.To suffer with Christ is another matter. Paul speaks of the “fellowship of His (Christ’s) sufferings” Phil. 3:10). True Christians share in the suffering of Christ in the sense that through suffering they identify with Christ.To be a disciple of Christ involves suffering for and with the Master. Christ as Lord and His disciple are bonded even further through the experience of suffering.
Suffering for Oth/ers
Another type of suffering is that endured for the sake of others.The prophet Isaiah portrayed the Suffering Servant as a sin-bearer when he said, “By His stripes we are healed.” Jesus announced repeatedly that His suffering was His mission. Looking back to the cross, apostle Peter explained that “Christ also suffered once for our sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). Jesus Christ freely and willingly suffered and gave His life for us. Indeed, Isaiah 53 graphically describes the “Suffering Servant.” “He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs (pain) and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed (reckoned) Him stricken, smitten (struck down), and afflicted. But He was wounded (pierced through) for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.”
Many people think that believing in God protects them from suffering, so when tragedy comes, they question God’s goodness and justice. But the message of Job, and of the cross of Calvary is that we should not give up on God just because bad things happen. Faith in God does not guarantee personal prosperity, just as a lack of faith does not guarantee troubles in this life. If this were so, people would believe in God simply to get rich. God is capable of rescuing us from suffering, but He may also allow suffering to come for reasons we cannot understand. It is Satan’s strategy to get us to doubt God exactly at the moment of our most intense agony. If we always know why we suffer, our faith will have no room to grow.