Our lives are unique in many ways and the same in many ways. One way our lives are the same is that we all suffer. Every person who has ever lived has suffered. Yes, some have suffered more than others — and yes, we suffer in different ways. But suffering is a normal part of the human experience.
Some Christians have been taught that after God saves us, He will keep pain and suffering out of our lives. Or that if we suffer as Christians, it’s because we have weak faith. These ideas are man-made and do not come from the Bible.
The Bible says clearly and repeatedly that suffering is a normal part of the Christian life. Psalm 34:19 says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” In John 16:33, we read, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Acts 14:22 tells us, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” The author of Romans says, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23).
The testimony of Scripture is clear. God’s people will face many afflictions, tribulations and sufferings (2 Timothy 3:12). Following Jesus will cost us something. Nonetheless, we should not be surprised when trials come, as if something strange were happening to us (1 Peter 4:12).
One way we can prepare ourselves for suffering when it comes, and endure when we are in it, is to understand that suffering is a universal experience. During suffering, we often think that we are being punished by God. We ask God, “Why me?” The reality of universal suffering tells us that we are not alone or unique in our suffering. No one is being singled out.
During suffering, we often think that we are being punished by God. The reality of universal suffering tells us that no one is being singled out
As mentioned, Christians are not exempt from suffering. Nowhere does Scripture say that justification means no more suffering. Think about it. If our physical, emotional, psychological and relational comfort were the highest priority on God’s agenda for our lives, then God would be a failure. But He is not a failure. He is God and He never fails.
I do not intend to answer the question of why we suffer in this article. There are excellent resources for you to consider if you want to dig deeper into this topic. I do intend to encourage you to not think of your suffering as unique to you, as if you are the only one suffering. We are all suffering to one degree or another. All creation is groaning under the curse of sin, waiting for the reappearing of our great Redeemer (Romans 8:22-23). Everyone suffers in a world full of sin and death. No one is exempt.
The difference is that Christians have resources to deal with suffering that unbelievers do not. The cross of Jesus Christ redefines our experience of suffering. The cross tells us that God is up to something good in the middle of this dark and painful world. The cross tells us that we are never alone in our suffering. God Himself knows what suffering is like. The cross tells us that God can bring the best things ever out of the worst things ever. The darkest day in human history was also the most glorious day in human history.
Suffering points us to the cross. It reminds us that things of earth were never meant to be our Saviour and reveals the things that we actually hope in. It brings out what is really in our hearts — and reminds us how great God is, how small we are, and how much we need Christ.
Suffering is something we all experience. And suffering is a normal way by which God sanctifies and strengthens His people. Therefore, may God help us to “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame” (Romans 5:3-5).
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