“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29).
Everyone suffers–Christians and lost people alike. While the degrees to which people suffer vary from person to person, suffering touches everyone. Suffering comes as the result of one’s sins (1 Peter 4:15). It comes as the result of the sins of others. And it comes as the result of no sin at all. Suffering and its effects can impact a person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
For the Christian, while the event of suffering might take him by surprise, that suffering happens never should. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). The Christian certainly shouldn’t be surprised if he suffers as a result of publicly living his life for Christ (2 Timothy 3:12).
Suffering, regardless of the reason it happens or the manner in which it is experienced, never is without purpose. Suffering is never without purpose because we do no live in a purposeless universe without One governing all things. There is a purpose for all suffering because God the Creator is sovereign over all things, with all things falling under the purview of His perfect providence.
While the Christian doesn not perfectly or exhaustively know the mind of the Lord or offer Him counsel (Romans 11:33-36) and therefore may not always know why he is suffering, he can know with certainty that God, being good, intends only good in the suffering He allows him to experience.
In the life of the Christian:
~ God uses suffering as a means of loving, fatherly discipline (Hebrews 12:6, 11).
~ God uses suffering to bring about his repentance (Job 42:1-6).
~ God uses suffering to conform him to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29).
~ God uses suffering to test and mature his faith (James 1:2-4).
~ God uses suffering to produce in him endurance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-5).
~ God uses suffering to keep him looking heavenward (Romans 8:18).
~ God uses suffering to enable him to comfort others who suffer any kind of affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).
~ God uses suffering to allow him to suffer alongside his Christian brethren (2 Timothy 2:1-3).
~ God uses suffering to motivate him to humbly seek the ministry of prayer from his elders (James 5:13-14).
~ God uses suffering as a means of grace in his life (1 Peter 2:19).
Yes, suffering is difficult and often painful. But, again, there is a purpose behind it–all of it. Christian, with the Holy Spirit’s help, think biblically about suffering and, by God’s grace, you will see it as a gift from God–one worth enduring for His sake and His glory. And Christian, you can endure suffering. For the One who saved you promised you will endure it (Matthew 24:13).