Locations & Times

Why the Suffering?

by Leigh Ann Dilley on February 10, 2023

What is the deal with suffering? No one wants to suffer, or no one asks for it. Most would prefer to skip this part of our faith. So why is suffering at the heart of the Christian faith? Suffering can look like many things: illness, persecution, separation from someone or something we love, the loss of a reputation, physical or emotional pain, etc.

Suffering is mentioned all over scripture, and we all know being a Christian doesn't mean we won't experience suffering. Instead, it's more like we invite a bullseye target for trouble to live upon our backs! Before we go any further, it is important to note God's promises of rescue and to be present in times of trouble still stand. He heals the wounds of the brokenhearted. God promises to see us through trouble, but He doesn't necessarily prevent it. 

Jesus says to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane in John 18:11:

Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?

The cup refers to the suffering Jesus would experience on his way to the cross, the isolation, the humiliation, and the death Jesus would endure to save the world from sin. The content of the cup was the wrath of God as written about in Psalm 75:8:

For the Lord holds a cup in his hand that is full of foaming wine mixed with spices. He pours out the wine in judgment, and all the wicked must drink it, draining it to the dregs.

Both God and Jesus knew what was happening when God gave Jesus this cup. Jesus drank the cup of God's wrath for all of us. There was a purpose in Jesus's suffering that benefitted all believers for eternity. Jesus's love for us was His purpose for drinking the cup of God's wrath. Therefore, if we are image-bearers of Christ, does this mean there is a purpose to our suffering as well? Do we endure suffering out of our love for Christ and each other?

Suffering can lead to many positive things: a better relationship with Christ because we turn to Him in search of answers and comfort, allowing God to have his way with us and work for our good. Suffering can develop endurance in our faith and greater wisdom. We can experience God's deliverance through a rough time. Our trust in God grows as we see God work through our suffering to comfort others. Can you think of a time you were comforted using a shared experience? So yes, suffering can be beneficial for us and others even though we would never choose it.

Paul had an interesting view on suffering. He saw it as a privilege.

For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. Philippians 1:29

Christ chose to suffer out of love and to build the Kingdom of God. As image bearers, shouldn't we choose to build the kingdom as well? We are heirs to this kingdom by rights of adoption and sonship, shouldn't we want the best for it? So it seems we would have to say yes, it is a privilege to suffer for Christ and accept the plans he has for us, even when they include suffering.

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