The God of the Bible, Yahweh, the God of Israel is the primary cause of all things. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. By His eternal decree, all things come to pass (Is 46:10). This includes the suffering of His church.
Some may dismiss the cause of suffering to be God Himself, but we must consider Scripture, “But Yahweh was pleased to crush Him (Christ), putting Him to grief (Is 53:10a).” The sufferings of Christ are known from the four Gospel writers, and yet, as the head of His church, being built up in the world in every generation, His body continues to suffer afflictions (1 Pet 2).
The world sends wolves into the church to divide and devour God’s people. Typologically, ethnic Israel was troubled on every side. Nothing has changed for the people of God around the world. In every place and in every generation the spiritual warfare rages. We are sheep readied for slaughter.
In contrast to the psychology and prosperity gospels of much of the American church, the true church acknowledges God’s will for His people to suffer. In fact, suffering is normative for Christians.
In suffering, Christians grow weary of this world. The silver and gold allures lose their luster. With eyes focused on Jesus, like Stephen (Acts 7), Christians endure their crosses for the joy set before them. “Christ is coming soon, or I will soon be going to Christ,” is the sentiment. Suffering helps Christians to be other-worldly.
In suffering, Christians recognize the adversary. He is the thorn in our flesh, ordered by God that we might know the sufficiency of grace. It pleases God for Christians to know the truth about the deceiver. This is why the children of the devil prosper in this world. Satan poses as an angel of light, and he lavishes his children with more of the world, that their affections will be captive to their best life now.
In suffering, God is pleased to show Christ again and again to the world. The suffering of Christ was on public display at Calvary, and the world watches the peculiar nature of Christian suffering, too. The world rewards those who follow the ways of the world, but Christians operate in another way. The way of Christ does not gain the world, nor its rewards. Christians take up their crosses of suffering and head to the place of dying to self. Selfish ambition, selfish motives, selfish behavior, selfish actions are crucified and self-glory is ruined.
In suffering, Christians are less prone to wander into the vanity of sin. Sin entices with the pleasure of disobeying God. The rebellion of man is muted, paralyzed, and he is blinded from seeing the way to more sin. In other words, suffering crushes the Christian. He is bruised. He limps with Jacob. He is in the dust with David. He is imprisoned with Paul. The world hands him his head, as it did John the Baptist. He sits with Jonah under the unpredictable plant.
Suffering is a diverse experience, but it is ordained for God’s elect regenerate people. In the world, you will have trouble. Suffering keeps Christ’s sheep near to their Good Shepherd. This pleases God.
In conclusion, it is wise for Christians to expect suffering. It is also wise for Christians to see the varied benefits of suffering in this life, in this world. God has ordered every suffering. He is pleased for His people to suffer, so that He might make all our sufferings work together for good (Rom 8:28). In this, He is glorified, and His eternal good pleasure is fulfilled.
Christians are advised to suffer patiently, offering thanksgiving, and living in anticipation of their day of deliverance. Soon, suffering will be no more, and the glory to be revealed to us will cause us to see the present sufferings as they were intended (Rom 8:18). Christian suffering aids our sanctification. It pleases God to set apart a people for the purpose of holiness and glory. Suffer well, for God has ordered this, and He is near to minister comfort in our seasons of suffering. Christ is our example, and His Spirit is our comforter. Got suffering?
August 8, 2021