There is a kind of Christian teaching out there that promotes the idea Christians must not suffer. That’s a lie. A blatant lie! Christians suffer. Acts 14:22 says through much suffering we must enter the kingdom of God. We are no different from people who are persecuted and some even killed for their faith. Contrary to modern day, twenty first century, watered down, health and wealth, easy believism, Christians are in fact no super humans. We get frustrated. We get stressed. We live with unfulfilled dreams and expectations. Our lives are in no way immune from the challenges of this world. We lose love ones. We lose jobs. We get sick. We suffer.
World events must call many believers to rethink what gospel they have believed. Are you saved to be materially blessed, divinely healthy and divinely protected from suffering? You have believed a lie.
A cursory look at the Psalms–a great source of comfort and inspiration for believers—reveals the realities of pain and suffering in a believer’s life. Some of the Psalms contain expressions of David’s personal pain and sorrows: “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes”(Ps 6:6). “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”(Ps 43:5). “Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I”(Ps 61:2). “Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins”.(Ps 25:18).
In these words, we see “a man after God’s heart” expressing anguish in different circumstances of his life. David was not an exception. Many other characters in the Bible poured out their hearts in pain and anguish. As believers living in a fallen body in a fallen world, we are not immuned from the pain and suffering present in the world. In fact, suffering is ordained in the sovereign plan of God for the world and in the life of the believer. Job said “man is born to trouble”(Job 5:7). Suffering is the portion of every believer. We must all carry our cross and follow Him.
The biblical authors acknowledged what many today will deny in the name of Faith. They acknowledged the place of suffering in the believer’s life. James said “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,”(James 1:2). Paul pointed out that “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”(2Timothy 3:12). The Lord Jesus Christ Himself painted no rosy picture of the Christian walk. He told the disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation.”(John 16:33).
Suffering teaches us obedience. Writing about the high priestly role of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews tells us that, in His humanity, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”(Hebrews 5:8). No where in the Bible are we guaranteed a life without suffering and pain. You dont even have to open the pages of the Bible to realise the reality of suffering in the world. The bad news, disease, brutal execution of Christians coupled with the suffering of people around us is enough evidence that a suffering proof christianity is a placebo. Paul describes the inescapable realities of suffering in the believers life. “..we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies”(Rom 8:23)
Though we are saved, we are not in possession of the full benefits of our redemption–the glorification of our bodies. We still live with the presence of sin, pain and suffering. We groan in pain in anticipation of our glorification in future. In all of these however, Christianity doesn’t spell as gloom. In our suffering, we are not left on our own, we don’t grieve as people who have no hope(1Thess 4:13). We have the blessed Holy Spirit as a comforter and “present help in need”. What a privilege! In our weaknesses and suffering, we can turn to God through faith in Christ Jesus.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.(Heb 4:15-16).