On the face of it, suffering is regarded as negative and bad. Many Christians see suffering as an attack from the enemy or as a consequence of sin.
The focus of this article is to look at suffering from the Christian perspective and what attitude a Christian should have when undergoing a period of suffering.
First, it should be noted that biblical suffering comes in various forms. It comes as trials, temptations or tribulations.
Trial is a state of being tested. During this period, one could go through a period of distress or pain. Things happen to us which test the very foundation of what we have believed.
Tribulation on the other hand, is a severe form of trial. It comes in various forms which include physical and psychological stress. It means to ‘press’ or ‘squeeze’. It is as this point that the very essence of who we are is seen by all when what is inside us is squeezed out.
Temptation on the other hand is state of being lured into doing things that negate what we believe in. While the first classes of suffering are not necessarily within our control, temptation is in most cases a direct attack at the most vulnerable aspects of our lives. Every day of our lives, we are faced with temptations and we have to make choices which could have positive of negative impact upon our lives and those of others as well.
Now that we know the different ways Christians suffer, we now attempt to answer the question, is all suffering evil? Now this pre-supposes that many aspects of suffering is evil but some aspects are not.
Taking a cue from scriptures, we see cases of people who have undergone suffering for the sake of the gospel. They gladly endured it because they knew that it was an essential part of the commission given to them. The Apostle Paul was one of such persons.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 1 verse 8 - 10, he stated, ‘We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again’.
Others are afflicted with trials just because God himself chose to test them as in the case of Job. The Bible did not tell us that Job did anything wrong. In fact, it was recorded that he continually made sacrifices for himself and his children as well, in case they had committed any sin. Yet, this man faced one of the worst troubles any single individual could face within a short period of time.
One thing is certain, although Christians suffering is not something pleasant; it is not necessarily evil. We need to have the right attitude towards suffering in order to know how to handle it. Note that the tern used here is ‘Christian suffering’ as distinct from the general suffering faced in our world today.
What then should be our attitude to suffering? First, we need to know that we have a comforter in God. 2 Corinthians 1 :3- 4, ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God’.
Sometimes, God allows us to go through suffering in order to make us an instrument of comfort for others. Imagine, if you have never been hungry before, how can you have compassion on those undergoing starvation? If you have never suffered the pain of losing a parent or dear one, how can you understand the pain of someone who has just lost someone close to him or her?
When we are comforted by God, He gives us the compassion and the grace to reach out to others who are going through the same kind of and grief we have gone through and offer the help and comfort they need.
Not every suffering is a direct attack from the enemy. This is where we miss it most times as Christians. Sometimes God allows suffering in order to gain our attention. When we respond by going into spiritual warfare, we are like a doctor giving a wrong diagnosis to a sick patient.
How do we know the right response to suffering? The first step is to check that we have not made choices which has caused the suffering. If we have, then the obvious response is to repent. Secondly, we should take steps to observe what we were doing when trouble came knocking. This will give us an insight as to whether it is a direct attack from the enemy or God allowing certain things to happens to us in order to get our attention.
One thing that is clear is that whatever we are faced with, whatever we are going through today, God’s comfort is there for us. And the good news is, suffering is not meant to be continuous. How do I know this? 1 Peter 5:10 says, ‘In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation’.
(c) Biblepraise Newsletter, 2011.
Steve Popoola is the editor of Biblepraise Newsletter and the webmaster of Biblepraise Fellowship Online at http://www.biblepraise.org. He currently resides in London where he works as an IT professional. He serves in the ministerial team of his local church as well as in the music ministry. He is the Moderator/Editor of Biblepraise Newsletter. He can be reached through His email address, email@example.com