We might wish that there would never be suffering in our lives. We might desire that everyone would like us and treat us with respect and never harm us, that we would never be ill or have pain or lose a loved one, and that there would be no accidents or bad consequences for our actions. But when we think about it, we realize that this is all unreasonable. We each suffer in different ways and at various times.
Sometimes we suffer because of bad decisions or sins we have committed. If you are reckless in your behavior, you may have an accident and get hurt. If you unwisely borrow money, you may be burdened with debt. If you break the law, you may be arrested and suffer whatever penalty the authorities give to you. If you suffer for bad decisions or sins, you need to accept the consequences with patience and learn from your mistakes. But if you suffer for doing good and take it patiently, this is pleasing to God. 1 Peter 2:19-21 “For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.”
Christ suffered much. He tried to prepare His disciples that He would suffer many things. Matthew 16:21 “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” If Jesus suffered, it shouldn’t surprise us if we suffer. Hebrews 2:9-10 “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Hebrews 5:7-9 “Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” If Jesus learned obedience by the things which He suffered, it shouldn’t surprise us if we must learn obedience to God through our suffering.
There are other things we learn through suffering. The first is patience and perseverance. Job suffered the loss of his children and the loss of all of his possessions; then he was smitten with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head (Job 1 and 2). Throughout all his suffering, he did not sin. James 5:10-11 “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord — that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” We learn patience and perseverance through our suffering.
When we have suffered, we are able to empathize with others who are suffering like we have suffered. If you have bad headaches, you can empathize with someone who also has headaches. If you have lost a child, you can comfort another parent who has lost a child. If you suffer persecution, you can empathize with others who are persecuted. When you see someone suffering, it is a time to minister to them. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 “That there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
When you suffer, it is a time to draw closer to God and spend time with Him in prayer. James 5:13 “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.” When you suffer, you can share with God your suffering, plead with Him for relief, and receive His peace. Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
You may suffer because you are a Christian. If so, that is a time to rejoice. Matthew 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Rejoice if you suffer for your faith.
There are many ways that you and I may suffer today. Suffering has a place in each of our lives. We can learn obedience to God in our suffering. We can learn patience and perseverance. We are able to empathize with others who suffer as we have suffered. Suffering can draw you closer to God. If you suffer as a Christian, rejoice because your reward is great.
Finally, suffering can make us desire our eternal home. Revelation 21:4 “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” When we reach our eternal home, there will be no more suffering.