There is a common misconception that suffering can be avoided. Some think that becoming a Christian means you won’t sin anymore, others that doing good means nothing bad will happen to you. This is not the case.
The fallenness of the world taints everyone’s lives, just as God’s grace falls on the good and evil (Matt. 5:44-46). This is a common vexation in Psalms and Ecclesiastes (7:15, 8:14) that continues throughout mankind today. Of course good would lead to good and bad to bad, right? Wrong.
Pain comes to all, regardless of what you put in. This is not to say you throw all to the wind and swing to a far end of the pendulum. But this is also not to say that life is one big, fate-deciding spin-the-wheel game.
God sends suffering
God intentionally leads His followers through trials in scripture. He knows that there are some things we can only learn in a storm, like in Mark 4:35-37. Jesus chose to take His disciples through the storm, where they learned some valuable lessons about Him and what it means to have faith.
“The road to the promised land runs past Sinai.”-C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Some of us believe that if we obey Jesus carefully, He will lead us through calm waters, and that rough waters must be a result of disobedience. That is not what scripture tells us. The disciples were in rough waters because they obeyed.
Not “if,” but “when”
So life is not a question of if you will suffer and how to avoid it, but when. As James says in 1:2-4, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
If we think we’re never going to suffer, we don’t understand the Gospel. We follow a crucified Savior. You cannot follow a crucified Savior and not suffer. Jesus lived a perfect life, yet He suffered, so why should get a pass?
1 Peter 4:12-13 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”
Jesus gave up more than we can give so we could have more than we have the right to ask for. He laid down His life for us. The least we can do is live every day for Him. And what an honor if we get to experience a fraction of the suffering He endured for us!
Do you see suffering as a calling?
Whatever Jesus calls you to will include some kind of suffering. The freedoms of singleness see many lonely nights. The joys of marriage are paired with conflict resolution. The treasure of children leaves little to no time for yourself.
There are specific kinds of suffering that accompany specific kinds of callings. The grass may look greener on the other side, but it has just as many thistles as your current patch. So the question mustn’t be, “how can get I get out of this” but “how can I glorify God through this?”
This article speaks to the inevitably of suffering, but there are many others that address the silver linings of suffering. God doesn’t just allow trials to come into our lives but sends them with a purpose— to strengthen, to round off, to teach.
So don’t ask God why, but seek to know who He is within the circumstance and what He is trying to teach you.