Suffering is not easy to think about, so it is understandable that many would shy away from the topic. Even so, we all suffer. This life is full of difficulties. Rather than denying the reality of Christian suffering, we should consider suffering as an expected part of Christian life. In so doing, we can find strength in Jesus to endure all things.
One of the most important ideas pertaining to suffering is this: all things are working together for our good. This includes suffering.
Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
What might God’s purposes be for Christian suffering?
Suffering is part of life in this fallen world; however, the fall of mankind does not rob God of His sovereignty. Even when we seem to suffer for no reason, we can rest assured that God has a purpose behind every hard thing we endure—and most importantly, His purposes are good.
We live different lives and have different purposes in God, therefore the suffering we endure can vary. The resulting good purposes of God vary also. However, there is one good result of suffering that all Christians have in common: everlasting life as adopted sons of God through faith Christ Jesus.
As partakers of the adoption, Christians take the name of Jesus onto themselves. We defend His name. We grow up into His name. Most often, this entails some form of suffering.
Philippians 1:29 – For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.
Think about it. Let it really sink in. As Christians, all things we suffer are for our good as we honor the name of Jesus and as we grow up into Him.
Whether we endure suffering at the hands of others, whether we endure chastisement from God, whether we endure temptations or struggles against sin, whether we live through disasters, illness, loss of loved ones, or any form of suffering a person might encounter in this world, suffering has a positive effect. Suffering draws us closer to God. Suffering makes us better servants of those who suffer. Suffering makes us more like Jesus. Suffering for His name brings glory to God.
We don’t always respond to suffering as we should. Sometimes we complain when life gets hard. Sometimes we become afraid, sorrowful, and angry. Jesus knows our weaknesses, and He is merciful to us. He forgives us, just as He forgave His disciples. Remember Peter. He denied Jesus, but Jesus did not deny Him.
Didn’t Jesus say that those who deny Him would be denied by Him? He did, but let’s consider what this might mean. We all deny Him in small ways, and He forgives us. He makes us stronger. Lord willing, we will not deny Him in large ways, and we get there by learning not to deny Him in small ways.
There are those who deny Jesus in small ways without regard for the Name they lay claim to, and Jesus will deny them. He will say to them, “I never knew you. Depart from me you who work iniquity.” That is not the fate of any sincere Christian who strives to honor the name of Jesus and grow up into Him.
Knowing these things, let us continue to suffer for the name of Jesus, both as we defend what He stands for and as we endure the working of the Lord in us.
In all suffering, we can find comfort in the sovereignty of God and in the sacrifice of Jesus.
No evil would have power over us unless it was first given by the Father. If the Father has ordained it, then the evil we endure is for our good. If the Father has ordained it, then we know that Jesus will help us to endure it.
Jesus endured the wrath of God on our behalf, so the suffering we encounter is not that of judgment, but that of life. Jesus endured suffering so that He can comfort us through our suffering, and He makes all things bearable—even though many things feel unbearable at the time.
Should we find ourselves living in times of great trouble, we know that God is in control. We know that all suffering we endure is given to us by God. We know that all suffering we endure is for the name of Jesus. We know that the name of Jesus is the only name by which we can be saved, so though we suffer, we are not defeated. Jesus strengthens, He gives us peace, and He is our great hope. We will live with Jesus forever, and all suffering will one day come to an end.
Revelation 21:3-7 – And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.