2 Corinthians 1:8-9 “We do not want you to be ignorant brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. for we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”
One of the key questions I get asked as a pastor is, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?”
Well, the bible teaches us in Genesis 3 that suffering is a result of sin entering into the human heart due to our own rebellion against God. To be alive after Genesis 3 means you and I will suffer in some way. It’s not a question of “IF” but “WHEN”.
Jesus confirmed this when he said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have tribulation but take heart I have overcome the world.” This doesn’t mean that you and I will escape suffering but that we will in fact have Gods grace in the midst of the suffering we endure. Suffering won’t be avoided because you have a lot of faith or neither is it necessarily a punishment for your sin (however, we can suffer for making poor choices in life or willfully living in sin).
It’s important that before we move to a therapy of how to deal with suffering, we develop a biblical theology of suffering. A theology of suffering precedes and informs the therapy of suffering if we are going to understand and respond appropriately to God’s purposes for us in our suffering.
The key question we need to ask ourselves is whether or not the suffering we endure will be purposeful (something to be accomplished) or purposeless (nothing accomplished)? How we respond to suffering determines whether or not we gain anything from it. Will you suffer in a way that allows God to do something good in you or not? God encourages us to not waste our suffering because suffering can turn out to be for the benefit of God’s work in us and through us, if we respond from a Gospel perspective.
3 Questions to ask yourself when facing suffering:
- Will you see your suffering as a God-allowed opportunity to advance the gospel?
- Will other believers grow in their faith because of your suffering?
- Will unbelievers become believers in Christ because of your suffering?
The biblical response to suffering always comes back to rejoicing in Christ. What the…? Yes, that’s right, REJOICE! The Apostle Paul said, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” (Phil 1:12-18).