Why do Christians suffer?

Firstly, we have to understand that our Lord did not promise us a bed of roses as His followers. In fact, he assures us of the opposite. John 15:18-20 “if the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘a servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” And in John 16:33 He tells us, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” We should, therefore, expect tribulation and persecution in this fallen world, amongst fallen people and in these fallen bodies in which we live. When God created the world it was perfect. There was nothing to cause us any harm or pain or death. Now, however, since the fall, all the processes of death have come into the world. We now have fallen bodies that are vulnerable, and we can get sick or injured, and we die. We also live amongst fallen people. We are selfish and evil and sometimes do harm to others. Now, in all this, God limits the harm that comes upon His people. He provides help to us, comforts us and carries us through all our tribulations.

Secondly, when the Lord promises us that all things will work together for our good, He is not saying everything will be good for us, but everything will, in the end, work together for our good. It may not seem good at the time when we are passing through tribulation but, in the end, God works it all for our good. By tribulations He...

Strengthens our faith for what is ahead of us

Through them, He teaches us that we can trust Him to see us safely through whatever lies ahead. 1 Peter 1:6-7 ‘In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.’

Deepens our relationship with Him

He draws us closer to Himself. We experience just how much He loves us and how much we mean to Him. Through it we learn to appreciate Him and what it means to be kept by the mighty power of God. Isaiah 43:2 ‘when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.’

Renews our zeal for the service of God

It helps us to realise that time is short for all of us and there is much left undone and many souls left unsaved. While all is well with us we can begin to think that we have all the time in the world to do God’s work, but sickness helps to focus our minds on the frailty of human life and the urgency of salvation for those who are perishing. Psalm 22:21-22 ‘Save me from the lion’s mouth and from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered me. I will declare Your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You.’

Teaches us empathy for our fellow man

We understand what they are going through and we pity them and have compassion for them. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.’

Humbles us. Tribulations strip away our self-reliance

They strip away our human resources and bring us to the end of our own strength. Tribulation also helps us to think more soberly about ourselves and to stop thinking more highly of ourselves and of our abilities than we ought to think. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ‘lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will boast of my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’

Chastens us

If we are the Lord’s blood bought children, then He will chasten us when we fall into sin or stop walking according to His Word. He loves us and wants us to walk with Him in harmony and unity. When we sin we stop walking with him so He chastens and corrects us to bring us back to Him. Chastening also promotes self-examination. It makes us question why we are being chastened and encourages us to search our hearts to see if there be any wicked way in us. Hebrews 12:5-7 ‘you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?’

Provides a rest for His weary servants

It may seem strange to say this because sickness can be a draining experience but sickness and confinement also provide a time of rest from our labours, when we cannot be up and busying ourselves about the Lord's service. Following sickness and during a time of recuperation, it gives us the opportunity for spiritual refreshing and reflection on the work. Psalm 127:1-2 ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrow; for so He gives His beloved sleep.’

Proves His promises to be true

All those wonderful promises that he has made to us to heal our sicknesses, to never leave us nor forsake us, that His grace would be sufficient for us and His strength would be made perfect for us in our weakness, and the like, are true and we can have absolute confidence in His faithfulness. 1 Thessalonians:24 ‘He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.’

Gives us a great opportunity for witness

The world thinks that we are fair-weather believers and if things go wrong for us we will turn from Christ. Therefore, when we pass through tribulation and keep our hold on Christ, it shows people that we are Christ’s and that they were wrong. It also gives us an opportunity to show unbelievers how true believers meet, and cope with adversity, by the grace and in the strength of Christ. Also, when we pass through tribulation and are helped by our Saviour, other believers are encouraged and assured that Christ will be with them also. Philippians 1:12-14 ‘But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.’

Reminds us that we live amongst fallen people with sinful hearts

We, in the west, have lived without serious persecution for many years and so it is easy to think that people are basically good and do not deserve to be cast into hell, but, when we are persecuted, and experience the hatred of our fellow man, we realise just how evil the human heart can be. As we are told in Romans ‘there are none righteous, and all the world has become guilty before God. John 3:18-20 ‘He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.’

Loosens our hold on this world and our longing for Heaven is strengthened

As we pass through tribulation we become weary of life in this fallen world with all its sufferings. The things of the world, that seem so important when all is well, suddenly seem so unimportant and irrelevant. Suffering helps us to let go of this life and take hold of our Heavenly inheritance. Philippians 1:21 ‘For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’

Finally, in all our sufferings and tribulations, we need to remember that it is a privilege to suffer for Christ. It is our calling as servants of Christ that we should suffer with Him. We are not higher than Him and He warns us that if they persecuted Him then they will persecute us. This is our privilege as His servants who uphold His glorious name. Philippians 1:29 ‘For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.’ Be of good cheer, He has overcome the world