For the last few weeks I have been blogging about the problem of evil. This is because the problem of evil is a hot issue with Christians and non-Christians. Some Christians think they shouldn’t endure suffering because they’re Christians. Non-Christians see the problem of evil and suffering as a stumbling block in their investigation into faith in God. So I think the problem of suffering and why God allows it should be addressed.
What good is the suffering we endure? Before answering this question, I want to stress that this is a religious problem of evil and should be answered in the following ways only after the person in pain has been reassured by the comforter that they are cared for and loved. The suffering person may not be able to contain these answers until the emotional pain has healed enough so that the sufferer is in a frame of mind for them to make a difference. The following answers are some reasons for suffering.
- God may allow suffering in a good person’s life as a basis for some future working in
a person’s life that glorifies God. There may be things that happen during
the trial that will show God’s hand in that person’s life.
- God’s affliction may remove a cause for boasting. Sometimes when things are going
smooth in our lives, we can tend to feel self-sufficient, as though we don’t need
God. Affliction will get our attention and remind us that we do.
- To demonstrate to Satan, our true and genuine faith to God. When God wanted
to demonstrate to Satan that Job’s love for Him was genuine, he allowed Satan
to strip away the blessings in Job’s life to show that even without them, Job would
still love God. It was a victory for God to be able to show Satan that there are people
who love God, not just because they’re prospering, but because their love
- For God to demonstrate the Body of Christ concept. We are all related to each other
through Christ and need each other. Suffering allows the sufferer to experience God’s
love through other believers.
- To promote sanctification. While suffering, we change our priorities. We shouldn’t
spend our time in the flesh, but doing the will of God. Professor and Chairman of the Department
of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, John S. Feinberg
says “afflictions cause us to exercise restraint in regard to the temptations that surround us, rather
than yielding to them.” Another way suffering promotes sanctification is by refining
one’s faith. This will result in our praise and honor and glory to God. Also, God uses
our sanctification to educate believers and be an example to them so that they may
grow closer to the Lord. Sanctification gives us intimacy with God, challenges us to
grow and imitate Christ.
- There might be a ministry that results from our suffering. When one is suffering,
people are watching. Suffering can have a tremendous impact on the non-Christian who will
notice how the Christian reacts to affliction. When they see the Christian remain faithful in
affliction, they are impressed and know there is something different, almost supernatural, about
- To prepare us for future trials. Living in a fallen world means there will be more than
one trial in our lives. God prepares us for these trials. Part of that preparation is
in confronting whatever trial one is enduring at the moment.
- To prepare one for judgment of their works for rewards. 1 Peter 1:7 says that
affliction helps to prepare the believer for the coming of Christ at which time
their faith and actions will be “found unto praise and honor and glory at the
appearing of Christ.” In other words, trials make us more Christ-like which will mean
rewards for us on the day of judgment.
- For God to exalt us. God said that whomever is great in his kingdom must be brought
low. Affliction will do that, so that someday God may exalt us. Christ Himself is an
example of this. He left his Heavenly home to come down to earth and become human. He, as
author and pastor Bill Hybels puts it, “descended into greatness.”
- As a means to take us home to be with the Lord. Our final affliction will usher us into
Heaven and into everlasting blessings. I like Feinberg‘s perspective on this; “Affliction
leading to death may just be God’s way of promoting someone to His presence.”
No matter what the circumstances, we need to remember to let God be God and
know that we are not. Finally, I will conclude with a quote from Clergyman and author,
Do not pray for easy lives, pray to be stronger people. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life, which has come to you by the grace of God.