In This Life, We Will Suffer

Robin Stearns LeeBy Robin Stearns Lee8 Minutes

I have been a life-long reader. Lately, the books I seem to devour are well-written Christian fiction stories which feature realistic people, experiencing relatable problems, and figuring it all out with God’s help. The stories captivate and entertain me, but more importantly, show me how to apply what the Bible says.

I’m also one of those weird people who re-read a good book. My favorite is Some Wildflower in My Heart, written by Jamie Langston Turner, a former professor at Bob Jones University in the upstate of South Carolina. The story features two main characters; Margaret, who suffered a tragedy early in life which causes her to shut herself off from people and to withdraw from God; and Birdie, who we soon learn also has suffered, but she has chosen to embrace God and live a life of joy.

At one point in their relationship, Margaret asks Birdie, “Why does God allow humans to suffer?” I couldn’t turn the page fast enough to read her answer! I’ve never forgotten Birdie’s reply.

“She grimaced, however, and shook her head sadly. ‘Oh, Margaret, honey, I don’t know exactly how to answer that,’ she said. ‘I don’t know why he lets us suffer – I just know he does. It’s just part of life, and we all have our share sooner or later. And we can spend our whole life saying it’s not fair that we have to pay for something Adam did, but it doesn’t change a thing. I wish I had a mind that could figure it all out, but I don’t. I just know two things for sure, and they don’t seem to go together – God is good, and we all have to suffer.’”

Wow! Such a simple answer but filled with contradiction. God is good but He allows us to suffer. Do you ever wonder why we must endure pain? What does the Bible say about suffering?

The Fall
God created a perfect world in the beginning, as we learn in Genesis. Adam and Eve walked with God; literally! All was perfection until that pesky snake tempted Eve, and they ate the forbidden fruit. Thus began the curse which causes us so much pain today (Genesis 3).

We can certainly point back to Adam and Eve as the cause of suffering. We live in a fallen world and man was born into sin. Even the Earth itself is suffering and groaning (Romans 8:22).

Although Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden and sentenced to a life of hard work and eventual death, all is not hopeless. God has a plan and a purpose in our suffering.

Delighting in Difficulty
Why must we suffer? Sometimes it is because of our own poor choices. Often it is through no fault of our own. Paul describes a “thorn in my flesh” given to him by Satan to torment him. Although Paul asked God to take the pain away, God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul goes on to say he delights in his weakness, in hardship, in difficulties, for his weakness allows him to rely on God’s strength. Think about it. If we had no problems, how often would we acknowledge God or ask for His help?

It is through suffering that God reaches down and tenderly comforts us. Psalm 34:18–19 reminds us that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” He does not leave us alone in our sorrow.

Purpose in Pain
Hardship gives us the opportunity to lean on the Lord and to grow in our faith. There is purpose in the pain. Paul reminds us that “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:3-5). Is the Bible telling us that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?

Sometimes the purpose of our pain has nothing to do with us; it’s to benefit others. 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 tells us that the outcome of our suffering can be the ability to comfort others with the comfort we were given by the Lord when we were suffering. Paying it forward, so to speak.

We know that Jesus willingly left the splendor of Heaven and came to Earth to suffer and die for our sins. Because He suffered for us, we count it a privilege when we follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21). Timothy goes on to say, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Suffering sounds like a requirement for a follower of Christ!

Pain is Temporary
God promises that the painful aspects of life are only temporary. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17). One day all suffering will end. James 1:12 tells us “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

Birdie’s words in my favorite Christian fiction book are profound and true. God is good. He is very good. And He does allow suffering for our greater good.

Thank you, Jesus, that although we must encounter suffering in this world, you never leave us. You bring us through our painful seasons and comfort us. Thank you, Lord, for your grace and mercy. Amen

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33 NIV