If I had the answer to why we suffer, I think I could put it in a bottle, sell it, and retire in my 30’s to some tropical island. Suffering has no answer, or at least an answer we want. Yet, at times in this life we are called to suffer. Sometimes we suffer because of our own poor choices, decisions, or actions and other times we suffer at the hands of others. Nothing feels good about suffering and no one wants to go through with it.
I can tell you from a biblical perspective that suffering came from sin and because we live in a fallen, sinful world, with people who have free will to sin, suffering is a natural consequence. Yet, even more astounding is that the Bible eludes to the fact that we will suffer because of our faith. If we want to grow and mature in our Christian faith we will face suffering at times, whether that is persecution, temptation, or attacks from satan.
I know we face suffering for different things, disease, divorce, death of a loved one, a break-up, a difficult child, a disrespectful spouse, an evil co-worker, a dishonest boss, and suffering can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental. We can suffer from chronic back pain. We can suffer from years of emotional abuse. We can suffer from temptations to abuse alcohol or drugs. We can suffer from depression, anxiety, and fears. We can suffer and because we are miserable we want or make others miserable. We blame God, we blame others, and we continue to suffer.
I am not sure what type of suffering you are facing right now. I know I hate suffering, but I also know it’s necessary. If it were not for the sufferings I’ve faced in my life, I would not have the strength, endurance, perseverance, and hope I have. I know if it were not for suffering I would not learn the lessons that life has needed to teach me. I know if it was not for a broken heart I would not have experienced love. If it were not for a broken trust I would not have experienced real friendship. If it were not for a broken spirit I would not have experienced grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
We may not always want suffering and we may sometimes suffer and not know why and maybe we never will. Sometimes suffering just plain stinks and we may not deserve the way someone has treated us, made us feel, or acted toward us, but no matter what we can trust that God will use it. He will take it and use it in a mighty way if and only if we are willing and open to the teaching. God will use our sufferings to mold us, shape up, equip us, teach us, strengthen us, and grow us. In time, we can always look back and see where God was with us and where we are better because of what we experienced or went through. It can also teach us to stop doing things that cause us to suffer at our own hands or avoid the people in our lives who cause us harm. Most of all we can learn to truly rely on God in all times, both good and bad.
“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
I Peter 2:21(NIV)