Scripture is clear that trials unlike any other are coming, but why wouldn’t God just skip over that part? Why do His children have to suffer?
#5 — To distinguish believers from nonbelievers
As fishers of men, it is our job as Christians to gather as many people as possible. Think of heaven like a party we’re inviting everyone to. God will sort through who actually believes in the reason for the party (Matt 25:31-46).
One of the ways this distinguishing happens is through the testing of persecution. Some who initially receive the good news with joy will immediately fall away when tribulation or persecution comes because of it (Mark 4:1-20).
As history continues to fall in place, trials will reveal two distinct sides: abiding in Christ and suffering because of it or disdaining the living stones the world has rejected (1 Peter 2:4). You will either “save” your life and lose it or lose your life for Christ’s sake and find it (Matt 16:25).
“Those who always endeavor to evade persecution are not true disciples and will not share in the kingdom because true disciples follow Jesus even at the cost of their lives.”-Charles Quarles
For the believer who will lose according to the world’s standards, comfort can be found in how our opposition will be judged accordingly (1 Peter 3:16). We may suffer more than our finite minds can imagine, but God will not discount a single tear.
#4 — So we may be made like Him
The Christian’s life after salvation is a never-ending pursuit of Christ-likeness. Unless Jesus returns before we die, we will never reach that goal, but every day is a call to die to ourselves and bear His image.
Because Christ was one of us for a time and suffered as we do (and then some), enduring trials and tribulations is actually the fast track to Christ-likeness. It is in the fiery trial that the Spirit is with us (1 Peter 4:12-14).
The world is full of supporting analogies illustrating how the best blessings, biggest impact, and greatest character come from the gift of suffering.
- Photographs develop in darkness
- Flowers grow through dirt
- Rainbows come from storms
- Stars can’t shine without darkness
- Dark mines produce valuable jewels
- The deepest seas have the best pearls
The list goes on. While persecution (like the above vessels) is not desirable, those who aren’t killed by it are made stronger (2 Corinthians 12:10).
#3 — So we will depend on Him
In the mysterious balance between God’s will and man’s free will, nothing happens that isn’t ultimately meant to draw us closer to Christ. God is after our hearts and it is in times of trial that we are more prone to lean on Him.
“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”-1 Peter 4:19
While we need good times and moments of refreshment to strengthen our weary souls (Isaiah 30:15), I am more likely to have a proper view of who I am and who God is if my life is not going well according to human standards.
As Tim Keller once said, “There’s no way to really trust in God until you’re drowning.” If you want your memorized Sunday school facts about Jesus to become realities you feel in your heart, suffering is the way to do it (learn more here).
My heart can grow a little faint after passages that walk through what the end times will be like, so it’s comforting that after one rendition in John 16 Jesus said:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
#2 — For the sake of the world
You are not here for yourself but for the sake of another. Any self-care, self-love, or self-development we can and should apply is meant to make us the best we can be so we can serve others to the best of our ability.
This is rooted in the core of each of our identities as broken mirrors to reflect His glory or cracked pots to store His treasure. Oftentimes it is when we are at the pinnacle of human weakness that His strength is most clearly displayed.
Story after story, fictional and true illustrates again and again how much more impact the testimony of one’s life has when it’s cut short. People care about people, and death has an unprecedented ripple effect that carries what the deceased stood for to places it wouldn’t have otherwise reached.
For the Christian who is persecuted in everyday life or sentenced to death, God’s faithfulness is able to have a stronger testimony than possible if our lives were “going well.” That’s why we’re here: to show others the reality of Christ.
“For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”-2 Corinthians 4:11-12
#1 — So Christ is magnified
Above our personal growth toward Christ-likeness and our testimony of His glory to others, the root core of our purpose in life and death is to praise God. We were created to worship.
The fall has diverted our worship to whatever idol our heart fancies, but our original intent was to bring glory to God. It is therefore actually a gift to be scorned because of Him.
“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,”-Philippians 1:29
Our human nature often wants to write this off as a brutal form of injustice, but the heart that cries out as such is not attempting to grasp everything that God is.
If life were fair, we’d all be in Hell. God’s grace is not fair.
Christ gave up more than we can grasp so we have the opportunity to be with Him again. The least we can do is live our lives for Him, and if we get to suffer too, how marvelous that we do not have to bear as much as He took on for us!