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  • Writer's pictureVic Bernales

A Christian Perspective on Suffering



Suffering in this fallen world is not uncommon. Christians or non-Christians go through terrible times of pain, pressure, or persecution. Rich or poor people in war-torn or wealthy countries are subjected to it.


While most non-Christians see suffering as senseless or meaningless, even undeserved, Christians have a different view on suffering.


Yes, there are times that believers suffer because of their wrongdoing or stupidity (1 Pet. 2:20a; 4:15), but Scripture has many examples of godly people who suffer, even die, for doing good.


We could mention the patriarchs Job and Joseph, son of Jacob. Stephen, the first Christian martyr (Acts 6-7), and Antipas (Revelation 2:13) may be added in the lost as well. The greatest example, of course, is the suffering and death of the sinless Son of God, whose death was sacrificial and for the sake of God's people (Rom. 5:8).


For people who are, by faith, identified with Christ, who is "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53:3a), suffering is part of their calling. It is a "trial by fire" for the purpose of refining them, so that their faith, which is more precious than gold, "may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Pet. 1:7b, NIV).


Suffering is always painful. Many of us would avoid it if we could. Who among us would ask God for disease, death, depression, disappointment, failure, rejection, false accusation, persecution, and other kinds of trials?


None of us in our right mind would seek for these things, I suppose. These are all unpleasant at the time. Definitely patience and endurance are required through them.


However, for us believers, suffering or hardship for doing good is God's way of purifying us from all our character flaws and drosses (cf. 1 Peter 2:19-20). Moreover, God also provides us the grace to persevere through them "that we may share in his holiness" (Heb. 12:10b).


By the power of the Spirit, God is able to help us focus not on the pain of suffering but on the eternal joy that awaits us in glory while we endure suffering, just like Jesus, "who for the joy set before him endured the cross..." (Heb. 12:2).


This is the will of God for us, His people, whenever we face all kinds of trials. James is instructive in regard to this. He says, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness" (James 1:2, 3, ESV).


In the words of the apostle Peter, God instructs His elect: "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. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you" (1 Pet. 4:12-14).


It is commendable for us to suffer with grace and endurance for doing good for "to this [we] were called, because Christ suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example, that [we] should follow in his steps" (1 Pet. 2:21).


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