Everybody suffers in life. That seems to be a universal constant, a truth that applies to everyone born into this world. While the scales don’t always seem to be necessarily balanced, with some suffering more than others, we all seem to have our share of hardships. Trials and tribulations come, whether they be financial problems, sickness and disease, marital issues or whatever else that pops up and gets in the way of us having a smooth road to travel. We will all, at some point, go through it. If you haven’t yet, just wait. You will.
We tend to question why we suffer. Many become very philosophical about it, coming up with reasons why and possible ways to rid our lives of this horrible condition. The goal of many is the alleviation of suffering in their own lives and, in a more altruistic notion, the lives of others. While it is an admiral goal to have, it is not really a practical one. Since everybody lives there own individual life with its own set of intricate situations, no one answer is going to suffice as far as alleviating suffering goes. There seems to be no path we can take to avoid hardship and that, I believe, is a good thing.
As a Christian, my source of truth and guidance is the Bible. Holy Scripture has a lot to say about suffering. It records the origin of suffering and the eventual end of all suffering. It also says much about the trials we will go through in between. All these things together paint a cohesive picture of suffering as a painful but necessary part of God’s plan for His creation. While some might see this as cruel, I see it as it is: a result of man’s own actions in this world. All suffering can be traced back to the fall of man in the garden of Eden, when Adam rebelled against God. That was where it all started and it will continue until Christ returns and establishes His kingdom on the earth.
James chapter 1 says that we should count it all joy whenever we fall into all sorts of trials and tribulations. This sounds crazy at first. We should be happy about falling into hardship? Who would possibly react that way? And yet that is exactly what Scripture instructs us to do. Most of us would react quite a bit differently, getting upset and possibly cursing the day, when things go south for us. That would be an immature response, though, and not the one that the Lord uses James to communicate to us. Since Romans chapter 8 says that God is working in all things to bring about our good, we should be able to trust Him when troubles befall us and allow Him to get us through it all.
The reason James gives for rejoicing at the trials we face in life is that it produces perseverance. He says that when perseverance has finished its work in us we will be mature and complete, lacking nothing. He goes on to say that if we lack wisdom we should ask of God, who gives it generously. The response to this request for wisdom is often a time of learning as we go through some sort of trial. In this way, the things we suffer tend to instruct us, teaching valuable lessons that we would otherwise not learn when things are going smoothly. Therefore, suffering produces perseverance in us, a quality we need for living a Christian life and reaching the lost for Christ. It also matures us and teaches us valuable life lessons that God has designed for us to learn.
Peter, like James, writes about suffering. He writes, in 1 Peter chapter 1, that we may have to suffer grief in all sorts of trials while we are waiting in this world for the Lord to be revealed from Heaven. He says that the reason for these trials is so that the proven genuineness of our faith will be to the praise, glory and honor of the Lord. Basically, the things we suffer through prove our faith to be genuine. It is an easy thing to have faith on a good day with blue skies overhead and birds chirping merrily all around. It is a different matter altogether to maintain that faith when the storm clouds roll in and threaten to shake you to your very foundation. Many people think they have faith when, in reality, they don’t. When things go bad they abandon the hope they have professed and go running back to whatever they knew before Christ. Therefore, it is a good thing that we suffer from time to time and get to see what we’re made of, spiritually speaking.
Paul, another apostle, was also well-acquainted with suffering. In his ministry he was imprisoned multiple times, beaten, stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked more than once, in addition to being hungry, thirsty and homeless by his own account. Paul may have suffered more than anybody else to spread the gospel to the world. He was ultimately beheaded for his troubles. And what did Paul have to say about his sufferings? In 2 Corinthians chapter 1 he mentioned suffering to the point that he despaired even of life. He said that this had happened to him so that he might learn to rely not on himself but on God, who raises the dead. Paul knew that he could not endure all the things he was called to go through and had to rely on God alone. In our sufferings, we should come to the same conclusion and rely solely on God. Our trials should make it clear that we cannot do it on our own. That is the message that God is trying to get across to us.
Nobody likes to suffer. That includes me. I have gone through many things in my life that I wished I hadn’t. It hasn’t always been an easy road and sometimes it seemed nearly impossible. It was in those times, though, that I have learned some of the most valuable lessons of my life and seen that my faith was securely rooted in Christ. These are things that I am thankful for, and I consider all the trials of my life well worth it. God never arbitrarily makes us go through bad things, but always has a reason for the suffering He allows into our lives. In everything that we go through, His ultimate goal is to grow us in our faith and conform us to the image of His Son. That is the end result of a life lived God’s way, when we will be welcomed into His kingdom and rewarded for our lives of faith. That is why I patiently endure and pray that all the saints will endeavor to do the same.