Is Suffering Biblical?

By Robin Mullins Senger

Have you ever wondered if suffering is Biblical?

Sometimes people think that following Jesus means they will be spared difficult times. When they are not spared, they are surprised and question God, “How could You let this happen to me? I thought you were a loving God!”

I want to clear up this misconception by briefly pointing out just a couple of fathers of our faith in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, we have the writer of Psalm 116. He experienced much suffering and despair, “I saw only trouble and sorrow.” Maybe you relate to that. This is a godly man suffering.

But rather than accuse God, he cries out to God for relief and help. God answers his cry by flooding his heart with His goodness, renewing this man’s faith in Him and his hope. This is a very good chapter to study to learn about the nature and character of God during suffering.

Read about King David, a godly man who suffered much. The Psalms he wrote have blessed the world with comfort in times of suffering.

In the New Testament, we can look at the apostle Paul who endured numerous trials and afflictions, but through it all he declares the faithfulness and goodness of God. In 2 Timothy 1:11-12, when Paul tells Timothy he is not ashamed of serving God, “ashamed” actually means “I am not triumphed over.”

As you continually turn to the Lord during suffering, you will experience renewed faith and spiritual life. God will not allow you to be triumphed over! You will come through every fiery trial victorious because Jesus will never leave you, or let you be overcome. God will sustain you. (Hebrews 10:35)

Are you going through hard times now and wonder what to do? Psalm 116:13 tells us.

Sometimes all you can do is pray, “Jesus, You are the only one who can get me through this. You are the only one who has the answer. You say you will not fail me, You will not forsake me. You say that all things work together for good to them that love You, and are called by You. Help me through this time. I put my trust in You.”

Or you may need to shorten that up to a prayer I frequently prayed because I was crying too hard to talk. “Help me Jesus!” That prayer, as short as it was, was answered victoriously every single time. Not once did the Lord ignore that cry of desperation. What matters is that you call out to Him – He hears your heart, and He will answer you!

Do you want to know the reason God allows His children to suffer?

Paul said this about it in 2 Corinthians 1:4-7:

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. So when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your benefit and salvation!
For when God comforts us, it is so that we, in turn, can be an encouragement to you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in suffering, you will also share God’s comfort.

So let's rest in God, and allow Him to use our lives to reflect His love to those around us who need to know Him. You may be the only Bible they will read.

I would like to conclude with a testimony from a friend.

He has been through many trials of his own as a Christian. I asked him to share this particular experience with you as I believe it will encourage you to see that our difficulties in God’s hands become lifelines of hope for others. These are his words of what happened:

“My church was one of 30 others that participated in a Convoy of Hope event on a recent Saturday….a day of reaching out to the needy, free food and groceries, free health screenings, free portraits, live entertainment etc. I had volunteered to help in the prayer tent, on the way out we were to conduct a short interview with these honored guests, get their feedback, to see what we could perhaps do better next time. It was also an opportunity to minister to their spiritual needs if they had any. One of the final things we were to do was to ask if there was anything that we could pray for concerning them.

Upon arriving, I began to feel that individual counseling in this type of setting was a bit out of my comfort zone. I found some other places where I could volunteer and that’s where I decided to hang out. About midway through the day the prayer tent became overwhelmed and was short of volunteers. A friend from church that was overseeing that area came and got me and asked if I could come and help out. I recruited an older lady, a widow, who agreed to accompany me since it required a team of two.

We were introduced to two young women, I believe they were sisters, one in her mid 20’s and the other perhaps 18 years of age. The younger gal was a mom and had her 2.5 year old daughter with her. We asked them what they thought about the day and they expressed how overwhelmed they were with the kindness they had been shown and thanked us profusely for all of the free services that were being offered. We asked if there was anything we could pray for and explained that we not only wanted to help with their material needs but also with their spiritual needs if they had any.

The mom became very quiet, we waited, she asked if we could pray for her little 2.5 year old girl. We said certainly that we would and asked the nature of the request so we would know how to pray. She told us that she had just found out that the girl was being sexually abused by friends of the father of the child, a man she was separated from. My prayer partner broke down, sobbing, she looked at me and just shook her head, letting me know that she was beyond words and was unable to pray for this one so young and so innocent standing before us.

I prayed as best I could through tears for this little girl for quite a while. We tried to gather our emotions and my prayer partner also asked her about involving the proper authorities. We then asked if there was anything that we could pray about for either the mom or the older sister. The older one said no and stood up and it was obvious she wanted to leave.

The mom then stood up to leave as well. My prayer partner asked if she could give them each a hug. The older sister said, “No, we want to hug you”…the older sister embraced my partner and the young teenage mom threw her arms around me and started to weep, she didn’t want to let go…I held her for a long time, I prayed, I cried, I was undone.

Later that evening I was sitting out on my patio trying to process what had happened. I felt a sense of not having done enough especially about not having more time to tell them what God had done in my life and what He could do for them and perhaps to introduce them to Him.

It was at that moment that I heard the still small voice on the inside of me speak so clearly, He said to me, “She might have had her arms around you, but she was embracing Me.””