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Why suffering!



Why is there suffering? This is a common question. Yet the commonly held Christian view on suffering hasn't been properly formed! Could it really be that God uses suffering to draw us closer to Him?!


At a local church, while visiting for a meeting, my eyes wandered across their pamphlet table and came to rest on a newsletter. In it I read, "Suffering draws you closer to God."

Could it really be that God uses suffering* to draw us closer to Him? If He does so use suffering, why aren't vast numbers of Christians very close to God since so many of them suffer so much? I suggest, if anything, the following old adage is nearer to the truth, "Suffering either makes you bitter or better."

Let me challenge you on your thinking about this matter. It is not suffering that does a work of drawing you closer to God but your Christian response to suffering! (N.B. This the context and the very content of this page!)

[*Note: "suffering" in this teaching refers to the suffering such as that of deprivation, oppression and disease; not the suffering being tempted as in Heb.2:18, Luk.22:41-44, 1 Pet.4:1. Also see footnote.]


When we do a study of scripture what do we find God using* to draw people closer to Him? He uses the light of His Word, the instruction of His Spirit and the ushering of His grace. Look how David prayed,

Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle.

Psalm 43:3 - NKJV


God also draws people to Him by His kindness,

Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realising that God's kindness leads you towards repentance?

Romans 2:4 - NKJV


Does God employ suffering to draw us closer to Him? If He did, shouldn't Christians who are devoted to Him be encouraging one another to stay in suffering for as long as possible to be taught as much as possible? No, we need to remind each other that God has sent Jesus to liberate us from suffering and given us His Spirit as our Guide to bring us into holiness and godliness.

[*Note: "to use" is synonymous with "to employ". If we were to say God uses suffering we would be saying God employs it. The implication of this would be that He has suffering as an employee in His business. The Gospel of Christ shows God in a different business! John 10:10.]


How should a Christian be responding to times of suffering or adversity? A Christian should be resorting to God's grace, the light of His Word and the instruction of His Spirit. Each of us as Christians need to be finding grace at God's throne, light to walk in from God's Word and instruction from God's Spirit on how to be delivered from it. Ja.1:2-5, 2Tim.3:11.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105 - NKJV


In Peter's second epistle he refers to the all things of God that pertain to life and godliness! These are the things that you, as a Christian, need to be employing at all times in your life and, especially, when you find yourself suffering or confronted by trials.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness...

2 Peter 1:2-3 - NKJV


This is what makes the difference between one Christian getting "better" in the face of suffering and another Christian getting bitter. The one getting better responds with the "all things of God" while the other Christian hasn't got a clue about how a Christian should respond to suffering and as a result takes no spiritual action nor does he or she resort to the "all things of God". The result is he or she continues in suffering and is in danger of getting bitter about it.

What should be happening is that Christians are being equipped by the five-fold ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers! Then in all situations - and especially in the trials of adversity that confront every Christian who moves towards a God-given door of opportunity - they go to God's Word, God's Spirit and God's grace. At the same time, they resort to their fruit of the spirit like patience, joy and love to see them thorough. 1Cor.16:9, Ro.5:3-5.


Do we need suffering in our lives so God can employ the things above to draw us close to Him? You may be forgiven for thinking so but scripture reveals a different plan. This plan is made effective by the substitutionary sacrifice that Christ made for us.

[* Note: there are Christians who promote suffering and preach it as God's route to holiness. They quote Hebrews 2:10, "For it became him (God), to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." They declare it supports their message that we should suffer in order to gain perfection. To declare this is to fail to properly discern the verse's meaning. John Wesley pointed out that the word translated 'perfect' might better be translated with the word 'consummate'. Calvin taught the phrase it contains refers to, "(making) perfect as a completed sacrifice"]


Listen to this about Christ's substitutionary sacrifice,

"The chastisement of our peace was upon Him..."

Isaiah 53:5 - NKJV


This scripture portion is pointing to a wonderous aspect of Christ's substitutionary sacrifice. By it, we are hearing the good news that Jesus took the required chastisement to gain and establish peace for us. In other words, by this sacrifice we have peace at Jesus' cost.

Jesus went through physical chastisement so we could be released from it to enter God's well-being. The declaration of such a substitutionary sacrifice implies God has no mind to use suffering to bring us close to Him; if He did He'd leave us to struggle with it instead of releasing us from it!

Jesus made a supreme sacrifice* to gain for us peace and a close relationship with God. You and I ought to accept that sacrifice and enter in at all times into all His sacrifice has gained for us!

[*Note: There has been a dramatic change in what a child of God can expect in life because of what Christ did on the cross of Calvary. A scripture study of suffering today must start from the cross of Christ and what Christ accomplished for us there. For an example of how the Cross has changed things see Gal.3:22-25.]


Some Christians think they can expect suffering in this life as a kind of spanking from the Lord. This is a sad misunderstanding. It primarily arises from an Old Testament scripture as we find it quoted in the epistle to the Hebrews. In this quotation, English translations often make use of the English word "chastening" and people who are familiar with the English language often on reading this mentally put "physical chastisement" in parenthesis next to it. It is an error to do this for the word "chastening" is translated from the Greek word "paideia" which simply means "correction designed to promote good discipline."

The best thing to do in reading this Old Testament quote in Hebrews 12:5 - 6 is to go back to the quotation itself which is in Proverbs 3:11 - 12 (see below). Here we find the scripture is in fact a metaphor likening the way the Lord corrects those whom He loves with the way a father corrects a son whom he delights in.

(To find out where this leaves us see again above my answer to the question "When we do a study of scripture what do we find God using to draw people closer to Him?")

My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.

Proverbs 3:11 - 12 - NKJV


Suffering might be the catalyst for a Christian making the kind of Christian response that draws the Christian closer to God but God's plan in Christ is actually for you and me to get delivered from suffering as fast as possible! Here's what the psalmist declares,

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

Psalm 34:19 - NKJV


Get delivered from suffering quickly! Allow the normal trials of adversity in active Christian service do the job of illiciting the Christian response that draws you closer to God!

Suffering is not God's Christian school of development! When suffering afflicts you, respond with all your equipping so that you may partake of Christ's substitutionary sacrifice and be delivered with all speed from that suffering!

God's Christian school of development is in the testing fields of active Christian service where we respond with the all things of God in the face adversity's trials. In trials of Christian service respond with all your equipping and draw closer to God!


Guard against letting it be in your mind that suffering of itself might be good for you, lest you fail to seek deliverance from it with all your commitment. Get delivered from suffering quickly! Leave it for the trials of adversity in active Christian service to do the job of illiciting the Christian response that draws you close to God!

Enjoy the peace of Jesus Christ!


[Footnote: This teaching, rather than being a full discussion of the topic of suffering, is a class designed to help you have a close relationship with God and live free from sickness and oppression so you can serve Him unhindered.]

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