Suffering And The Christian

By Bill Kulkens

Everyone Suffers
It may be hard to believe at first, but every living thing suffers at some point. Suffering comes to us all because of Adam and Eve’s original sin in the garden of Eden. God had warned them that “in the day” they ate of the forbidden tree, they would surely die (Gen. 2:17 NKJV). Death is separation, and that is exactly what happened.
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s one command not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, their relationship with God immediately changed from being with Him to being separated from Him. They suffered the loss of their fellowship with God. Also, the suffering of physical death came upon Adam and Eve. This has impacted all of creation, including you and me!

Because of sin, Adam and all who lived after him no longer had the benefit of harvesting food without a struggle (3:17-19). Work and toil is now necessary to get bread, thus we are suffering the loss of ease which Adam enjoyed prior to his disobedience. Eve and all mothers experience the suffering of pain, which was not part of the original creation, in child bearing (v.16).

Adam and Eve also suffered a change in their relationship between each other as husband and wife. Eve’s relationship towards Adam would now include struggles (v.16). Both Adam and Eve lost the harmony they enjoyed together and would face struggles with each other.

Some Reasons We Suffer
Besides death and the other changes that came into the human family because of sin, we suffer for some other reasons:

Sowing And Reaping – We suffer because of what we do. The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Galatia: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Gal. 6:7-8).
Correction – We suffer because we need to be corrected. In James 5:14-16 we read of a Christian experiencing illness as a result of not confessing and dealing with sin in his life.
Revealing Our Spiritual Condition – We may suffer in a test allowed by God that we might know where we are in the Christian life. The Lord used the 40 years that the children of Israel spent in the desert to help them realize what was in their hearts (Dt. 8:2).
Learning – We can suffer in order to learn something that we did not know before: to learn more obedience (Heb. 5:8), more endurance (Rom. 5:4), more feelings for others who suffer (2 Cor. 1:3-4), and more maturity (Jas. 1:4).
The Example Of Job
It is helpful to look at a few examples in Scripture to see the lessons learned from suffering. Job is a very good example for us. At the beginning of Job’s story he had a happy life. He was a man of blameless character and upright. This man had a big family with a wife and ten children. He had many possessions, including a large number of animals, a big house and many servants. Job “was the greatest of all the people of the East” (Job 1:3). Also, he was in good health.

Without Job’s knowing it, God was watching and blessing him. A challenge by Satan to God was made about Job, also without Job’s knowledge. Satan claimed that God’s blessings were the only reason that Job was a faithful man. This accuser continued to say that Job would be unfaithful if the blessings did not continue. Satan wanted to destroy Job’s faith in God. God allowed Satan to bring suffering into Job’s life to prove Job’s character, but He would only allow Satan to do this without taking Job’s life.

Satan caused Job to suddenly lose all of his blessings from God. Much of Job’s livestock was stolen, while enemies killed the rest. His servants were attacked and killed, and all of Job’s children died when a great wind tore apart the house where they were all eating and drinking. This all happened in a very short period of time. Of all that Job had possessed, there remained only four messengers who brought the sad news to him and his wife.

Job responded by accepting what happened. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (v.21).

Then Satan had one more form of suffering he wanted to challenge God with about Job. Satan harmed Job’s health, causing painful skin boils to cover Job’s entire body. Even this suffering did not cause Job to curse God.

Job learned many wonderful lessons as he suffered. He realized that God was watching over him every moment: “For now You number my steps” (14:16). Job appreciated God counting every step that he would take in his brief life here on earth. What a beautiful thought! We can say the same as believers in Christ. The Lord tells us in Matthew 10:30 that He has numbered every hair on our heads. This shows how much the Lord cares about us: He is interested in every detail of our lives!

Job grew in his understanding that one day he would see his Redeemer. He learned about the resurrection of his own body and said, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27).

We too have this blessed hope of one day seeing the Lord. The Lord Jesus has promised those of us who believe in Him that one day He will return and take us to be with Himself. Jesus said, “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14:3).

Job was a praying man. He prayed for his own children at the beginning of the story. After suffering, he learned to pray for his friends (Job 42:10). He had learned the need to pray for even those who were not part of his family. Likewise, we should not only pray for our families but for others as well. In 1 Timothy 2:1 the apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.”

There are many more lessons we can learn from the life of Job. The ones mentioned are but a few. It is wonderful to learn that God restored all to Job that Satan had taken away. Job received back even more than he had had before the suffering. In the end, God blessed His faithful servant; He will bless us for being faithful too.

The sufferings we may experience by being faithful in this life are only for a short while. God will bless us in the end. We may not experience this blessing in our lifetime; however, we will be blessed after this life is over. Paul told the Corinthian believers that suffering was only for a moment, “therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18). “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

The Apostle Paul
Through the apostle Paul’s experiences we learn another very important reason why God allows suffering in the believer’s life. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-6 Paul described a man who went to the third heaven and came back to earth again. Paul spoke of this person as if it were someone other than himself, but after he shared this experience we learn he was the person spoken about.

His experience would be something that could bring about pride in his heart. God, who is the only one concerned about our humility, would not allow Paul to become proud. Instead, God allowed a messenger from Satan to bring into Paul’s life some suffering. Paul described this suffering as “a thorn in the flesh” (v.7). Some believe it was a physical form of suffering that involved Paul’s vision (see Gal. 4:15, 6:11). Others consider the thorn in the flesh to be a false teacher who opposed Paul. However, Scripture does not clearly define the thorn in the flesh. Therefore each one of us can consider suffering that would humble us to be a thorn in the flesh that the Lord allows.

Paul prayed three times that this thorn in the flesh would be removed. God allows suffering to cause us to come to Him for help. Each time God answered Paul’s prayer by saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul learned to accept this suffering, which enabled him to remain humble, as God’s will for his life. He experienced the abundant grace that God supplied to match the suffering, empowering him to endure it.

There is a special lesson that we learn from Paul’s experience. Unlike Job, God did not remove the suffering from Paul’s life. We too may have the same experience. God may allow some form of suffering in our lives that will remain for a long time or, perhaps, for the rest of our lives. God wants us to come to Him in prayer, seek His perfect will, and rely upon His perfect timing. If God does not remove the suffering, He will supply the needed grace! This grace is sufficient because it comes from the Lord.

Paul understood that God’s purpose was to keep him humble. This understanding also helped Paul accept the trial and even boast in his infirmities to the glory of God. Paul wanted to experience even more of the power of Christ in his life, knowing that when he was weak in himself, he was strong in the Lord! We can look at sufferings in our own lives in the same way that Paul did.

Suffering is a very big subject. We have only looked at a few examples. The supreme example for the believer is, of course, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Some of His sufferings we cannot enter into, but the sufferings He experienced as a Man in this world filled with sin are left for us as an example. Study the Scriptures to learn more on this important subject.

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid up for faith in God’s excellent word!
What more can He say, than to you He has said –
You who to the Saviour for refuge have fled?

If through fiery trials our pathway should lie,
His grace all-sufficient shall be our supply;
The flame shall not hurt us;
His only design is the dross to consume and the gold to refine.

Fear not, He is with us; oh, be not dismayed!
For He is our God, and will still be our aid;
He’ll strengthen us, help us, and cause us to stand,
Upheld by His gracious omnipotent hand.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
He will not (He’s said it) give up to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,
He’ll never – no, never – no, never forsake.

—Richard Keene (Died 1787)