Answer the Christian: What good is the suffering I endure?

I want to begin by saying that we need to be very careful when responding to a brother or sister in Christ that is suffering. We need to be aware of what they need. Are they looking for an answer or do they need a shoulder to cry on? These responses are for a time when they come to a place where they are ready for answers.

Short Answer: God uses suffering to teach us, refine us, and help us be more like Jesus.

1. Sin is stupid.

The first thing we learn from suffering is that sin is stupid. The angels that followed Satan and rebelled against God most likely did not know all of the consequences of sin. There was no example before them that they could learn from. One thing the suffering in this world does is to teach us that sin is stupid. All we have to do is open our eyes and look around to see the effects of our rebellion against God. When we see the pain and evil that occurs in our world as the result of our rebellion against God, we learn how good it will be to be with Him. This prepares us to spend an eternity with God. The glory and peace that awaits us in heaven will be so much better after first experiencing the brokenness of this world.

2. Pain is a great teacher.

Suffering in our life also comes in the form of physical pain. When we experience pain, we are learning about the things that are harmful to us. At a young age, a child may be intrigued by a fire and get too close. However, after being burned and experiencing pain, that child will most likely not get too close again. Pain, even though it hurts, is a great teacher. We also see the pain that certain events or decisions cause in the lives of other people. When we see someone who has been hurt by an action, we will think twice before doing that same action ourselves.

3. Suffering helps believers become more like Christ.

God may also use suffering in order to sanctify us as believers. It is easy to continue sinning if there are no consequences. When a person suffers because of a sinful act, he/she is more likely to resist that sin in the future. Suffering may also be used to refine one’s faith as stated in 1 Peter 1:6-7. Feinberg states that, “James 1:3-4, Romans 5:3-4, and 1 Peter 5:10 say that God teaches perseverance or endurance through afflictions. Likewise, Hebrews 5:8 indicates that even Christ in his humanity learned obedience through suffering.”[1] Just as Jesus learned through suffering, so we should also. 1 Peter 1:21 says that we are to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and Jesus suffered. When we suffer, we are actually becoming more like Jesus and that is the purpose of the Christian life.

4. Suffering leads to eternal life.

A final good that comes from suffering is that, by suffering, we enter the kingdom of God. We suffer because we actively deny ourselves sinful pleasures in recognition of the glory that awaits us in Heaven. Romans 2:7 says, “To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” We have to persevere through many trials, and in the end we will receive eternal life with Christ.

This is one part in a series of posts on why God allows evil.  Look below to read previous posts that you missed and see what is coming up. Each section will be posted weekly in the order they appear below.

  1. Why do people suffer for a sin Adam committed long ago?
  2. Why does God let a child die?
  3. How might it be fair that God ordered the killing of Canaanite children?
  4. Why do bad things happen to good people?
  5. Why is eternal punishment fair?
  6. If conscious belief in Jesus is required for salvation, how is that fair to those who have never heard the gospel?
  7. Free will isn’t so valuable for God to permit so much suffering.
  8. What good is the suffering I endure?
  9. How will Heaven mitigate our suffering on earth?
  10. Why does God allow evil?

[1] Feinberg, The Many Faces of Evil, 482.