“Why Do Christians Suffer” is an article by James Maples.
James Maples serves as an elder here at Redeemer Bible Church. He, his wife, and his three children have lived in Nairobi for four years. James is currently working on his Master’s of Theological Studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. James enjoys travelling, photography, and spending time with his family.
Why does God use pain and suffering? What is the purpose of our suffering?
Those who face pain and suffering may ask why they suffer. What is the purpose of all of it? What is God teaching or doing in our lives through suffering? God uses trials to show us where our identity is, to help us to comfort others in their trials, and to grow our faith so that we can be faithful witnesses to the world around us.
God uses trials to show us where our identity and hope come from
We trust him with our eternal salvation but we think we can handle the day-to-day. Through trials, our Father is rebranding our identity and purpose. Daily, God continues to remind us in the pain and fog to look to Him. He is the answer. In Him is our identity. In Him is where our hope and purpose lie. We must be daily depending on Him for strength and endurance. HE is our rest and comfort. We have hope because of this. This is the why, this is the purpose of the pain and suffering: total dependence on Him who gave all for us on the cross. The intimacy that we can experience with Christ during trials is beyond words. The closeness that we feel when we continue to seek him during our trials is where we should aim to be. He is our strength, our rest, our comfort, and our identity.
This is true for any suffering or trial we go through. Our purpose and hope are in Him. No matter the circumstance or seriousness of our trial, he is faithful. Look to Him, he is the only thing in our lives that we can stand on. He is the constant true example we can count on. He is that for us so that we can be used of Him to comfort others in their trials.
God uses our dependence on him so that we can comfort others
Look at this passage:
(2 Corinthians 1:3-8) “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 affliction, SO THAT we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”
Is it for others benefit that we face pain and suffering? Is He preparing us for a ministry that only comes through pain and suffering? Are we an instrument that our God is using to convince and convict others into admiration and understanding of Him? These are a few questions that we must carefully consider when we think about how God is using our suffering to bring others closer to him.
Nothing is so broken and difficult that God can’t use. Suffering is counter to what His ultimate goal for us is, but He chooses to use it to develop and sanctify us. He uses it to help us comfort others in their trials. Nothing that I can think of makes someone confront their true self like suffering. Pain and suffering cause you and I to look inward at all hidden spaces that otherwise go unnoticed. He uses this to make us more like him which allows us to love Him and enjoy Him more (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4).
Suffering causes our faith to be strengthened and causes us to be more faithful witnesses to the world
Suffering is a test of our faith. Suffering allows us to find our true “north” or centre, demonstrate this to the world, and to cling to it. Suffering and pain force us to cling to and hope in the only absolute and constant we know. Suffering reveals to us and others, whether our faith is genuine or not. When we cling only to God during trials, this causes us to grow in our faith.
Suffering also calls us to be a more faithful witness to the world. In Habakkuk 3:18, Habakkuk shows us that suffering should cause us to proclaim to those around us that, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
We must realize that our suffering can be and is being redeemed. It has a purpose. This purpose is to make us more like Him and to be able, not only to minister to others who are suffering, but to also demonstrate God’s purpose through suffering to the world.