What good is the suffering I endure?
I recalled a time in my life that was very painful for me. It was a time when I watched someone so dear to me suffered. My father was a support pillar to me and my biggest supporter. During the time of his illness I suspected he lost his vision and was in pain constantly because in the days leading up to his death, he rarely spoke, neither did he look at you but all he did was constantly point and mumbled as if to say, I am in pain. I kept telling him that what he was going through would not be in vain and in my desperation I wish I could have given him my life or taken away the pain someway, somehow and so I turned to the only way I knew how – prayer. But God chose to take him home. To me, looking from the outside, my dad suffered a slow and agonizing death, diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer he was given 2 years at most to live, he died within those 2 years. It was then my thoughts were plagued by this question: how could any good come from the suffering we endure?
“Medical science has discovered that the body’s nervous system that conveys pain to us is designed to save our lives. Scientific research on leprosy has revealed that most of the loss of fingers and toes is not caused by the disease but by the leper himself. Leprosy destroys the ability to sense pain.” Therefore the leper has no warning signal that would alert him when his body is in danger or near death. While physical pain has its purpose, so too does God have a purpose for the suffering we endure. It was during my father’s illness when he became a Christian and was baptized. I gather that our suffering is there to alert us when our soul is in danger.
First, God uses pain to teach us. When we experience pain, we learn about things that can harm us. One of the lessons God desires from us during our time of suffering is to depend and become dependent upon Him. Too often we live life as if God is dead or too distant to care. When we live this way, we are saying there is no need for God in our lives, and this is a form of rejection. When we see God as the one causing the pain, it can become a psychological impediment for us to draw close to Him. Therefore, it is important to understand, while we do not know every purpose for our suffering, we are certain that some experiences are meant to teach us and hinder us from committing the same action that we know will cause us great pain.
Our suffering helps us become more like Jesus
Second, God uses our suffering to help us be more like Jesus. The main purpose of the Christian life is to become more like Jesus. Therefore, God can use suffering to promote sanctification for the purpose of refining one’s faith. According to John Feinberg, “sanctification is also promoted by suffering because God uses it to educate believers in ways that cause them to grow closer to the Lord and be more Christlike.” He further states that, “James 1:3-4, Romans 5:3-4, and 1 Peter 5:10 says that God teaches perseverance or endurance through afflictions. Likewise, Hebrews 5:8 indicates that even Christ in his humanity learned obedience through suffering.”
Last, as Christians we should always remember that when we suffer for Christ, we have an eternal home that awaits us - the kingdom of heaven. Unfortunately, we no longer talk about heaven, but why? Is it because we think that our earthly life is better than our heavenly home, in other words is heaven boring? Hollywood often demonstrates heaven as all white with angels playing golden harps. Or is it because we are afraid of what must come first - death? Whatever the reason, we should not suppress the glory that awaits us in Heaven. Romans 8:16-17 Paul wrote: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
Could you imagine what being an heir with Christ looks like? Take for instance when God blesses us here on earth, He blows our mind, we become amazed, elated at what God has done, how much more of this awaits us in Heaven? Have you ever seen images from space, with all those colors amidst a dark background, or any nebula images? Do you honestly think God would make the universe better than heaven? I think He would save the best for last. Don’t you? If we only knew what awaits us, we will understand that the suffering we endure today cannot be compared to a life of eternity with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Paul said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Rom 8:18) Let us not allow fear to take hold of us and rob us of our eternal glory and let us not allow the world to blind us or trick us into thinking that there could never be a place that is more beautiful, more peaceful, a place with no more tears, no more pain, no more sickness. Such a place does exist, did not Jesus tell us he went to prepare such a place for us? (John 14:1-2)
Therefore my brothers and sisters, I leave you with the words of Dr. Clay Jones “our earthly sufferings will be dwarfed to insignificance because they will be more than compensated for in both quantity – [getting everything forever] and quality – [enjoying God and each other forever].” For “as life comes to an end, the final affliction will usher us into God’s presence.” Oh what a glorious day that would be.
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 Norman Geisler, If God, Why Evil, (Bethany House Publishers, MI, 2011), 52.
 John Feinberg, The Many Faces of Evil, (Crossway Books, IL 2004), 482.
 Dr. Clay Jones, Why Does God Allow Evil? (Harvest House Publishers, OR 2017), 179.
 John Feinberg, The Many Faces of Evil, 482.