Though many in the evangelical church in America today will tell you differently, the normal Christian life involves suffering and afflictions. The apostles galvanized the first century disciples with this reality check: “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom” (Acts 14:22). When we are called to face this reality personally, let us not be alarmed or surprised.
Why is it important to remember this?
1) Our hearts tell us otherwise. We often have a sense of entitlement and believe that we deserve a peaceful, happy life.
2) Our culture tells us otherwise.
3) Some branches of Christianity tell us otherwise (that if we have enough faith, we will be prosperous and healthy).
What does Scripture teach us about suffering?
1) Every believer goes through suffering-remember Job, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Mary, David, Jeremiah, Paul.
2) Jesus said His followers would suffer…John 16:33, 1 Peter 4:12
3) God uses suffering in purposeful ways. John 15 reminds us of the divine pruning that must take place; it removes self-reliance and causes us to abide in Him. Samuel Rutherford said, “Let Him plow; He purposes a crop.” Hebrews 12:5-11; Genesis 50:20; Acts 4:27-28
Certainly, God uses suffering to discipline us and refine us to reflect His character. Yet, suffering doesn’t always mean that God is displeased with us or paying us back for the sins of yesteryear. Generally, this is simply not true. All one must do is read the story of Job and his friends. Job suffered not because there was unconfessed sin in his life, but simply to fulfill the redemptive purposes and plan of an all-loving, good, and sovereign God.
How can we respond well to suffering?
1) Look to Jesus. Think about our suffering Savior. Heb. 12:1-3 and Isaiah 53
2) Look to Scripture. Reflect and meditate on the promises of God….like Isaiah 41:10 and Hebrews 13:5.
3) Strive for an eternal perspective. What is this in light of eternity?…2 Corinthians 4:16-18 and 1 Peter 5:6
4) Rely on God…1 Peter 5:10
Remember that one reason that we are Christians is that suffering doesn’t have the last word. Jesus, the perfectly innocent One, suffered and died to end all suffering and death. This is great news