How do you suffer? Perhaps you suffer because you have some form of physical illness. Or, you may suffer because you have anxiety, and panic attacks keep you from doing what you’d like to do. There are many ways we suffer, but have you every thought about why we suffer. Do you realize that Christians suffer and that we will keep on suffering until we reach heaven? That is the truth of the matter.
There are many reasons we suffer, but as believers we might wonder why God allows it. Doesn’t He love us? I believe that many people who come to Christ think they will get out of all the hardships of life. They think everything will be peachy if they raise their hand in a service and say, “I invite Jesus into my heart.” Sometimes that is what they are led to believe by the pastor. Yes, get Jesus and live your best life now! Things will be great!
I’ve sat in churches like that and I can remember the pastor leading us. He would say something like this:
“There may be someone out there right now who is hurting. They might be having trouble in their marriage. There is someone who is physically ill today but they are here anyway. Do you want to be well? God will heal you. There is someone who needs financial assistance. They need money for a bill they can’t pay. Receive Jesus right now and he will take care of all of your needs. If you’ve never invited Jesus Christ into your heart do so now and feel His comfort. With every head bowed and eyes closed raise your hand so that I can pray for you. Yes, I see that one. There is another, and yes, I see you too.”
On it goes till the pastor is satisfied that enough people have given their lives to Christ. This is sad because that is not how a person becomes a Christian and it gives them false hope. They think they have just received Christ and their lives will be so much better from then on. Sorry folks, but that is not the way it works. They are not taught the truths of the Bible. They go back out into the world and try to live right, but it doesn’t seem to work. That is because they are not truly saved, and they don’t have the power of the Holy Sprit working in them. They think they are saved, but they are deceived. These people need to hear the true gospel message, repent of their sins, and get saved.
If you are a true Christian you will still suffer. How do I know this? Because the Bible tells us so. Take a look at Philippians 1:29-30 with me:
For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me. (emphasis mine.)
Yes, you saw right. We will suffer for His sake. It says that this has been granted to us on behalf of Christ. That would indicate that it is Christ’s will for us to suffer and that we should think of this as a privilege. Have you ever thought of suffering for Christ as a privilege? I hadn’t.
Now let’s look at I Peter 5:10
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (emphasis mine.)
Again we see that the Bible says we are going to suffer, and the purpose of it is to perfect us.
Here is another interesting scripture on suffering: 2 Timothy 3:12
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (emphasis mine.)
The apostles all suffered persecution and were killed in many horrible ways. We too will suffer persecution if we live for Christ. In this country, at this time, it isn’t that bad. People may shun us and not like us if we stand for Christ. In fact, in some families if a person becomes a believer their family might turn against them. Sometimes, as in my case, I lost many of my old friends as they did not understand me anymore and we didn’t have much in common anymore. You might suffer persecution for Christ’s sake in the work place. But, in some countries, even today, people are being persecuted for Christ to the extent that they are killed. It is illegal in some countries to become a Christians and if one does they are thrown out of their family and can be killed for being a Christian. They can also be killed for attempting to spread the gospel. That is true persecution for Christ’s sake.
So, again, why do we suffer? Well, for one thing to identify with Christ and what He has done for us, and for standing up for the gospel. But, there are other reasons also.
Have you ever noticed Romans 8:28-29?
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God forknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Emphasis mine.)
When things are going wrong people are quick to quote Romans 8:28, but I seldom hear them add verse 29. Yes, all things do work out for good for Christians, but the reason is found in verse 29, and that is so that we might be conformed to the likeness of Christ. In other words, some of our problems and suffering are allowed to change us. We come to Christ with many rough edges that need to be smoothed off and our loving heavenly Father has to shave them off. Little by little we change as we go through the hardships that come our way.
Can you identify with this? I can. I suffered tremendously from panic attacks and agoraphobia for 20 years. I found Christ during that time and believe me I had many rough edges that needed smoothing. I continued to suffer, but I also turned to Christ for the answers. I studied my Bible daily. I learned many precious promises and I learned how to claim them in my own life. I learned how to apply my faith to my problems. I grew in Christ. Eventually, I no longer had panic attacks. I got my life back and it was so much better than before. God was good to me! The biggest thing I learned was not to depend on myself or others, but totally depend on Jesus Christ for everything. He has sustained me to this day! He will do the same for you if you turn to Him.
I will close with this quote from Elisabeth Elliot in her book, A Path Through Suffering. (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 1990), 197-198
We suffer that we may learn who God is; that we may learn to trust and obey; it is required of soldiers; it is the condition of discipleship; to prune us, shape us to Christ’s image; to qualify us for the kingdom, to strengthen our faith; refine and test us, grow us; produce endurance; character, hope, joy, generosity; so that Christ’s power can be manifested in us; we suffer for the sake of God’s people; that we may share in His sufferings, His glory, and identify with Him in the crucifixion.
Here is a wonderful video by Joni Eareckson Tada that you will enjoy. It really brings suffering home.