The suffering of humanity is an age old topic. Why should mankind suffer hardship? It is easy to understand why someone should have to suffer if they commit a crime, that is his consequence. But why should a man have to suffer hardship when he is going about doing good? Why should the greatest man born of women, John the Baptist, have to suffer imprisonment and then early violent death by being beheaded just for speaking the truth. Or let us think of Stephen the first New Testament martyr who was stoned to death for speaking the truth. Or Naboth, that righteous man who was falsely accused and stoned to death because the wicked king Ahab wanted his vineyard. The list goes on and on; the righteous and non rightous, suffer down through the ages.
The answer is found in the beginning, in Genesis. Man was created innocent and was in perfect harmony with God in a beautiful garden. But he was allowed to be tempted and he fell for the trap of Satan. At that moment he began to suffer and has continued to suffer ever since for the wrong that he does and also for the wrong that others do. Even in birth, suffering comes. Suffering comes to all men in different forms, and it comes to Christians and non Christians alike.
We make a mistake when we think that because we are Christians we will not have to suffer. Jesus said those who want to live a Godly life will have to suffer persecution. We make a mistake when we say that others don’t have to suffer, everyone suffers. Or what about those now who are suffering bankruptcy through the gulf oil leak. Those who are fishermen who now are going broke and are not even allowed to go out on the water.
In Psalm 73:16 Asaph said, “When I tried to understand all this it was oppressive to me”. Many today feel confused and oppressed and depressed when they are faced with their suffering. The Apostle Paul suffered greatly for his faith. Our wonderful Lord Jesus Christ is our greatest example of a Holy, sinless man, suffering for humanity. He said pick up your cross and follow me, in other words pick up your suffering and follow me.
It is very important that we come to terms with suffering. The first step is to accept it. God could have taken it away, maybe He will soon or maybe not in this life. But He does say in the life to come He will take away all suffering and pain and there will be no more tears in heaven for those that are truely His children. As for now, He will be with us in our suffering and the comforter (Holy Spirit) will encourage us.
What should I do? Repent often, shun evil, trust and obey. Know that suffering is part of God’s plan now in a fallen world. Know that we will have to suffer some times for doing the right thing. Accept hardships patiently, know that God could remove them at any time. Know that others before you suffered for their faith. Keep doing good, trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. Know that when you suffer you can identify with others. Don’t focus on your hardship but ask God to help you be a good servant through your suffering.
The first step is to accept suffering as part of the human experience and believe that God will be with you until the end to give you the strength and courage to be an overcomer to the end. Then we will enter into Eternal happiness and joy.
Those who want to understand suffering should find a concordance of the Bible and look at all the verses that have to do with suffering; the answers are all there. God has not left us in the dark but has given us His Word to help us and His Spirit to guide us and comfort us on our journey towards heaven. We also can thank God for all his kindness to us and what he has saved us from.
There are many advantages to suffering now in this world. For example, it helps us not to get too attached to this world and reminds us that we are just pilgrims passing through. It helps us to remember that our true resting place and eternal rewards are awaiting us in heaven where everything is safe. It helps us to put our focus on our eternal life to come.
Lastly some times words are not enough during a great tribulation, but God is enough and He has numbered every hair on our heads. Not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of the Father. – Matthew 10:29
All we can do is to keep on trusting God and when our faith is shakey, ask him for more faith, do what we are able and leave the rest to Him. Sometimes the best prayer is just a sigh.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. – 1st Peter 5:10
Written by: Dave Dever