We suffer for many reasons – some of our own making, some because of others, some of Satan's making, and, yes, even from what God Himself allows into our lives. We make ourselves suffer whenever we do anything that is contrary to what God has told us we shouldn't do in Scripture, such as drink to excess when the Bible says to drink in moderation, or commit adultery when the Bible completely forbids it. Others make us suffer when they do or say things against us that cause us harm. Satan has his hand in our lives, too, and causes suffering in them because he hates God and anyone associated with Him. God even allows suffering in our lives for many reasons we cannot see.
Here are some reasons for the suffering we see in our world, and our lives, that God allows to happen: 1) the consequences of our actions and words. 2) Jesus Christ suffered for us, so we must suffer for Him. 3) From living in a fallen world ruled by sin and Satan. 4) God uses suffering to teach us: to help us become more like Christ; to build our faith and trust in Him; to heal us from our afflictions; to make us realize that, without turning to Him, our suffering will never end; to get our attention; to get us to focus on Him more; to strengthen and improve our character; to bring integrity into our lives; to help others deal with their suffering with what we learned from God during our own suffering (It takes one to know one!). One of the most important reasons that God allows suffering is to get us ready for Heaven.
What is the true purpose for suffering?
The main reason God allows suffering is for us to become more like Jesus Christ. The more we suffer, the more we should see God and His mercy, given to us through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. If we didn't suffer, then how would we grow? If there were no suffering in the world, how would we ever get to see the Glory of God? It is through suffering that we get to see the goodness of God as He lifts us up and helps us through the pain, no matter how it was caused. In our own lives, suffering helps us to see ourselves as we truly are – sinners in need of a Savior. Suffering causes us to see the sins we commit as affronts against God, and His love and mercy.
Also, our own suffering, and God's place in it, builds in us the ability to feel compassion towards others who are suffering, too. If there were no suffering in the world, we would never get to see all the good that people are capable of doing for others. We must look at suffering this way: God allowed His Son, Jesus, to suffer far more in one three day period than we will ever have to suffer in one entire lifetime here on this earth. If God allowed Jesus to suffer like He did, then we cannot question why He allows us to suffer. We just have to trust that God knows exactly what He is doing. Just remember, when those who are believers get to Heaven, we will see every suffering for what it truly is, something we can't do while still standing on this earth. We just need to remember that God sees the whole plan, and we see very little. Our hope as believers is in the fact that our God is sovereign, and is in full control of everything, whereby everything is working towards a greater purpose than we can see from the ground.
I become a co-heir with Jesus; there is hope in suffering
This is truly an amazing thing not only to believe, but to know is a fact! We become co-heirs with Jesus the moment we are saved. If you are saved then you are a co-heir with the most powerful human being that ever lived. Listen to what Romans 8:17-21 tells us about this revelation -- "Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. The sufferings we have now are nothing compared to the great glory that will be shown to us. Everything God made is waiting with excitement for God to show his children’s glory completely. Everything God made was changed to become useless, not by its own wish but because God wanted it and because all along there was this hope: that everything God made would be set free from ruin to have the freedom and glory that belong to God’s children (NCV).
As children of God, we are co-heirs with Christ in His glory and His sufferings. Understand that we will never be glorified as much as Jesus was, and we will never suffer as much as He did, but we get to share in His entire life and death. When man fell, sin tarnished the glory that we were to show to the world, and suffering became a way of life for us. Sin changed everything in God's original creation, which has been groaning since, and will not stop until God renews both the heavens and the earth at the end of the age. Thanks to Jesus, we, and the entire planet itself, were given the hope of renewal. But, for now, we must suffer as Christ did in our dealings with the world. As we spread the good news of Jesus Christ, we will suffer at the hands of those who don't and will never believe what we know to be true. As co-heirs with Christ, we get to share His love, mercy, forgiveness, and yes, even His riches, with people who need the hope that He can bring to their lives. As the last verse above says, we have the wonderful hope that God will indeed set us free from sin, and will bring us glory as His children. What a great and loving God we serve!
If I seek God I will have hope
Psalm 42:5-6a says, "Why am I discouraged? Why so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God (NLT)!
In our times of suffering, we can count on God to be there with us, helping us to not only cope with the pain, but to comfort us and to guide us to the other side of it. When I first was saved, God had 39 years of pain (due to being sexually abused as a child) to cut through. All the while, He was with me, taking me through a process of renewal that was nothing short of miraculous. He kept on infusing me with a hope that said, "You will overcome this. This is not who you are. Who you are, and always will be, is my child". I was saved in 1999. It wasn't until August of 2010 that the last vestige of the abuse was washed away, and I truly began to praise God in spirit and truth.
David suffered at the hands of another man, as I had been. Saul chased him all over the land in an attempt to kill him because Saul believed that David wanted the throne for himself. We all know that God chose David, but Saul did not want to give up his throne until he said it was time to do so. David got very discouraged, as we all do from time to time. In the Scripture above, we see that he even questioned himself about why he had to face this pain. But, in Psalm after Psalm, David always came back to the one thing he knew to always be true – that his God would not let him suffer alone. That's where his hope in suffering after suffering came from – God! During your own time of pain, if you can begin to praise the Lord in the midst of it (see Acts 16:25), you will find that the burden you are carrying will be lessened to a point where you will believe that it will end in a way designed to strengthen and mature you as a believer. As Jesus said, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you."
I will be counted worthy by suffering for God’s Kingdom
You're probably asking yourself, "How in the world could suffering be considered worthy?" Good question. "How can all this pain I'm going through be worth something to anybody, let alone me?" That's another very good question. Let's look at Jesus to find the answer.
Do you think that He found it worthy to die for us the way He did, suffering the excruciating pain of whippings, beatings, and being hung on a cross for us? Do you think that Jesus felt that what He did was worth it to save our souls from eternal death? Let's see what the Scriptures say about how Jesus felt about going to the cross. Hebrews 12:2 says to us, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" .
Jesus' joy came from knowing that what He was about to suffer on the cross would bring Him unspeakable joy in knowing that He was setting His people free from sin. He also knew that it pleased His Father in Heaven. If you are a parent yourself, you know the joy you get from watching your children succeed in something that was hard and possibly took a long time to achieve; especially if you had a hand in gaining that success. Jesus suffered in joy, even when He didn't show it. When Jesus went back to Heaven, His former glory was restored to its former strength, but I just bet His joy became stronger than it had before He came down to earth to save us.
When you suffer, try to look for the positive in it, and ask God to show you why you are suffering. He may not show you why right away, but you can rest assured that when you have overcome the trial, you will see the reason for it. Why did I suffer sexual abuse at the hands of someone who was supposed to love me? Jesus could have asked the same thing of God, something He did do in the Garden of Gethsemane. God did not answer Him because He didn't need to. Jesus already had the answer that God's will must be done, and done as God has lain out. You see, God has our lives all laid out, including our sufferings. He doesn't create our sufferings, but He does use them to further His Kingdom. Suffering strengthens us up in many ways: in faith, in love, in mercy and forgiveness, as we see God making us more like Jesus. Suffering also gets us ready for Heaven – because we have seen the dark evil of this world, we will appreciate the joys of Heaven more, as we live our eternal lives pain free.
As Paul said to the Thessalonians as they were suffering for their faith in Jesus in 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5 – "Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering" .
I will live and reign with Jesus in heaven
But the most important reason to suffer for Christ in this lifetime is this: "If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:11b-12a). Enough said. So let us endure these present sufferings here on this earth, and let's look forward to the pain free and joyful existence we will experience during our eternal life in Heaven.
Amen! I love the way you broke this down in simple form for us to understand. I wish I had this article last week to share on a blog I visited. On this blog a person was questioning why God allows suffering. The individual was actually encouraging others against believing in God because of the natural disasters He allows. My heart bled understanding the Scripture that says, 'My people perish for lack of knowledge.' I will search for that blog and share this link. Thank you for your obedience in posting this. God bless you.