The Source of Suffering
Memories of suffering are easy to recall. For most of us, we’ve experienced some level of suffering that has left a meaningful bruise. It wasn’t that long ago that my wife and I experienced a miscarriage, it wasn’t long before that that my father passed from cancer, and it wasn’t long before that that my parents were divorced. Over the space of about 20 years, a lot of suffering can happen.
There are at least 4 reasons suffering comes into our lives. It happens when we (1) act out of sinfulness and foolishness, (2) experience the actions of others, (3) are confronted with unfulfilled expectations, and (4) in frustration with God. But, truthfully, that part’s easy. I don’t think anyone would win awards for pointing out where suffering comes from. The real question is, what do we do with suffering when it hits?
The Gospel is not just an Entry Ticket
The problem is that many Christians have come to believe that the Gospel offers nothing more than an entry pass into a life of religious rule keeping. They’ve reduced salvation down to something that gains entry and reserves a seat but offers nothing to their ongoing experience. That’s where the problem of suffering can really gain ground.
The Gospel and Hope-filled Suffering
So, here’s 3 ways that the Gospel speaks hope into suffering:
- Through the Gospel, suffering loses its power. If this one life is all there is then it is right that pain and suffering should cripple us. However, through the Gospel, the believer is able to see their temporary suffering, however significant, in light of an eternal reward. The Gospel means we’re saved into a heavenly future where ‘he will wipe every tear from our eyes’ (Rev 21:4). Our future home should affect our present hope (2 Cor 4:17).
- Through the Gospel, suffering becomes more meaningful. If my identity is secure in Christ and I believe God is working out His sovereign plan in the world, then I can trust that suffering is not meaningless. Paul says that Christ will continue the good work he began in you (Phil 1:6). This means that Christ will use every moment of your joy and suffering to shape and mold you into spiritual maturity. That’s why Paul can say with full confidence to rejoice in our suffering! (Rom 5:3-5)
- Through the Gospel, you’re able to give grief its proper voice. Christians recognize that the world is broken and until Christ comes again, pain will exist and it will be felt by all. Grieving rightly is evangelistic. As Christ grows us in spiritual maturity, we’ll be able to recognize that grieving in the midst of suffering is ultimately aimed at a fallen world that needs a redeemer (Rom 8:19). When we grieve for our broken world, we have the opportunity to preach Christ.
Pastor Carl Robinson
 Belcher, R. P., Jr. (2008). Suffering. In T. Longman III & P. Enns (Eds.), Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (p. 776). Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press.