No one ever told me that following Christ would be hard. But no one ever said that it would be easy either. However, during my time as a Follower of Christ, I have come to realize that Christians are not preserved from suffering.
There are three things that we as Followers of Christ need to understand about suffering:
- Suffering often comes to those God loves
- There is a reason behind a believer’s suffering
- God doesn’t expect a “quiet sufferer”
1. Suffering for Believers
The entirety of the Bible is riddled with stories of men and women that God stretched to their limits. In fact, God stretched them past their limits, their only means of survival was based in complete reliance on God. Job, Abraham, Moses, the Israelites, Daniel, David, Paul, and even Jesus would be nothing without their total faith, trust and reliance on Christ, despite suffering.
Job was a righteous and wealthy man of God. However, Job lost his children, physical health, and all his riches to a test that God approved (though the test was carried out by the Devil). On top of his great losses, Job’s wife and friends ridiculed his character, despite the fact that Job was the most righteous man alive at the time. (Job 1-41)
Abraham, a man loved by God, was promised decedents as vast as the sand on the shore, even though Abraham had no children and was too old to old to have kids. Abraham waited in sustained heartache for a child, growing old in the process. (Genesis 12-17)
Moses was spared as a boy from a mass slaughtering of his people, the Israelites. The Israelites were kept as slaves under the Egyptians. Moses was adopted by the royal Egyptian family and was raised in luxury, only to be ripped away from his riches and driven into the desert. God provided people for Moses to stay with in the desert. However, God soon asked Moses to leave the desert and go back and free the Israelites. God led Moses through great heartache while the Israelites were still held as slaves. (Exodus 2-14)
Ever since their establishment through the bloodline of Abraham, God has promised the Israelites a nation with land of their own. Through famine, slavery, a journey through the desert, evil kings, the Holocaust, and the now broken nation that they are, God has led his people through great trials.
David was just a young shepherd boy when God promised him a position as king of the Israelites. It wasn’t long before David had to fight for his reputation. David then had to retreat into the desert, running for his life. David was in constant fear for his life while running from an old friend trying to kill him. (1 Samuel 16-31)
Daniel was stripped away from his family as a young man and imprisoned in a foreign country. Because of his former faithfulness to God, the Lord caused him to rise in ranks in that country. However, It wasn’t long before God brought Daniel through several harrowing events, including a night’s stay in a lion’s den. (Daniel 1-12)
Paul, the most famous missionary of history, had beginnings as a slaughterer of Christians. However, God soon intervened in Paul’s life and brought Paul to faith through physical affliction. Paul remained faithful to God through many imprisonments and beatings. Most of Paul’s famous writings were created while under house arrest. (Acts 9-28)
Jesus came from humble beginnings, though He was promised to be the King of the Jews. Jesus was God’s Son, but that didn’t spare Him from beatings, shame, ridicule, poverty, scorn, and crucifixion. (The New Testament)
God often leads us to the very end of what we can stand. We walk beside Him as He guides us through great suffering and heartache. There we stand, at the end of what we can bear. We collapse, unable to move. Then, from there, if we allow Him to, God picks us up and brings us through more than we could imagine.
2. There is a Reason for Suffering
Oftentimes, we only see what’s right in front of us instead of the big picture all around us. We only see the bad “now” and forget about the good that God has in store. As I said earlier, God’s plans are too grand for us to comprehend.
For Job, God restored his riches, health, and family to him, twice as much as he had before. Additionally, Job has become greatly recognized for his faithfulness during great suffering. (Job 42:7-16)
For Abraham, God blessed Him with a son, from whom descended the entire line of the Israelites/Jews! (Genesis 21:1-7)
Moses became a great leader of the Israelites, leading them into freedom and performing miracles while he Israelites wandered in the desert. God used Moses to bring the famous “7 plagues of Egypt” upon the Egyptians. (Exodus 15-40)
God brought David out of the desert and gave him a throne over the Israelites. God eliminated David’s enemies. David is famous for the Psalms he wrote while in the desert as well as being designated the “man after God’s heart.” (1 Chronicles 11-22)
God established Daniel as a royal administrator under the rule of various foreign kings, surviving a night in the lion’s den and bringing many to faith in God. Daniel is known for his bold loyalty to God, even while he was living in pagan lands.
God used Paul to write a large sum of the New Testament as well as reach many Jews and Gentiles with the good news of Jesus as the Messiah. Paul is famous for being a strong pillar of both the ancient and current Churches, writing encouraging letters and transcripts for Follower’s of Christ.
God brought Jesus to great glory after His crucifixion and resurrection, making Jesus King and Messiah for the whole world. Jesus is famous for bringing hope to the hopeless, teaching many valuable life lessons, and bringing the promise of eternal life to those who follow Him.
Through great suffering, God used all of these Biblical characters to achieve astounding things. Though some of these men didn’t see the fruit of their heartache till after their deaths, God still used their suffering for good.
God uses His people’s suffering to bring hope, faith, riches, and blessings to others. Often, one person’s trials are an ingredient in God’s master plan to bring hundreds, thousands, or millions to faith, hope, and joy in Him.
3. No Quiet Suffering
Though we must keep faith in times of trial and great pain, God never expects us to be completely joyful.
I have often misconstrued God’s longing for my obedience with the notion that I cannot be distressed or ask questions in my time of suffering. We are human, after all, mortals who have emotions. We cannot be expected to walk through great suffering with a smile and a laugh. God doesn’t want that.
God allows us to cry, call out, mourn, and be angry (not at God). Those are all emotions that God has given us to navigate through this fallen world. We are allowed to shake our fists at our circumstances. We are allowed to ask the Lord questions, though we must be prepared for His answers.
In his Psalms, David details thoughts and great mourning during his time in the desert while running for his life. Job is also known for his questioning of the Lord and his expression of great sorrow during his time of suffering. I encourage you to read both of this books!
David and Job were aware of an important fact during suffering: they could be human. Though they could ask questions, they also knew that God was sovereign in all circumstances. Neither man would curse God for any reason. Though they had questions and concerns, they proceeded in God’s calling for them, no matter what the cost.
In the same way, let us proceed in following Christ despite suffering. Let us find hope in the plans of the Lord and allow ourselves to mourn during times of pain. This life is full of troubles, but our suffering is for a reason in the end.
The righteous person may have troubles;
But the Lord delivers him from them all.