Why We Suffer
Suffering is one thing all of us have in common. We do not have to seek it out. It will find us. We can’t avoid it. It is unkindly patient. Even if spared early in life, at some point, it sniffs us out.
Why is suffering, like taxes, so ubiquitous? Joshua Chatraw and Mark Allen take up that question in their book Apologetics at the Cross: An Introduction for Christian Witness. They ask, “Does the Bible give an apologetic for our suffering?” Their simple answer is “Yes.”
They also have a more extended answer.
Humanity suffers because of sin. Adam and Eve chose to disobey God's one command; as a result, sin entered the world, and suffering followed (Gen 3).
Israel suffers because they disobeyed the Deuteronomic covenant.
God's children sometimes suffer from human disregard and abuse in order to accomplish a greater divine good (Gen 50:20).
Suffering gives the faithful new insight into God (see Job) and his written revelation (Ps 119:67, 71).
Disciples of Jesus suffer persecution because they follow Christ, who was persecuted himself (Matt 5:10-12).
Early Christians suffer persecution because of the jealousy and hatred of human leaders (Acts 13:45; 14:2, 19; 17:5, 13; 21:27).
Christians suffer in order to know Jesus better (Phil 3:10).
Christians share in Jesus Christ's sufferings in the present in order that they might share in his glory in the future (Rom 8:17).
God's children suffer because God disciplines his children out of his love for them (Prov 3:11-12; Heb 12:5-6).
Christians suffer in order to mature spiritually (Jas 1:2-4), grow in righteousness and peace (Heb 12:5-11), and be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom 8:28-30).
Christians suffer so that their faith can be proven genuine (I Pet 1:6-7).
While recognizing that this is not an exhaustive treatment, they provide a clear, biblical response to God’s answer to our suffering.
Here’s the point. God doesn’t leave us answer-less to this urgent question. The Bible tells us plainly what’s going on when we suffer. We know the why. Often the why isn’t the problem. It’s the enduring that causes the trouble.
But God helps us with that as well. In the Christian gospel, we have not only a God who answers our questions but also a God who enters our pain. As Tim Keller has said, we may not understand all the reasons of our particular form of suffering but we can know it’s not because God doesn’t care. The fact that Jesus entered our world to live as a man of sorrows proves he’s trustworthy.