By Tyson Thorne

March 26, 2019

WhySuffering2 Large

"This [inheritance] brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. Such trials show the proven character of your faith,which is much more valuable than gold – gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away – and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." — 1 Peter 1.6-7

In my regular reading of Scripture I came across the gem above, and it caused me to do a little more research and inspired me to write this follow-up to one of our most-read posts, Why Suffering? published in April of 2016. At that time I outlined that suffering is caused for four distinct reasons: our sin, others' sin against us, God's curses handed out because of our sin, and God's discipline. Peter's statement made me realize that there may be more reasons for suffering than I first anticipated, and the first is to reveal one's heart and allegiance.

"Indeed a righteous person will fall seven times, and then get up again, but the guilty will collapse in calamity." — Proverbs 24.16

When we suffer one of two actions will follow, our faith will either rise again, or it will continue to stumble and perhaps even collapse. Paul reinforces this understanding about suffering in Romans 5.3: "Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance..." If God rewarded our faith in the present time, rather than waiting until Judgment Day, we would become users of God and destroy our faith in the end. This is exactly what Satan accused Job of doing (Job 1.8-10). By having to endure suffering in this life we learn to depend on God for comfort, strength and protection.

Second, suffering can actually increase faith and perfect it. We learn this in Hebrews 2.10: "For it was fitting for him, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings." You might also want to see Hebrews 5.7.

We have seen so far that suffering is useful for proving the metal of our faith and for increasing our faith and dependence upon the Lord. There is still one more reason we have not yet explored. Sometimes suffering exists to permit God an opportunity to be glorified. A prime example of this is found at the beginning of Mark chapter three. Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath, for which those with hardened hearts began to plot against him but the others spent time praising God. Tremper Longman III, in his book An Introduction to the Old Testament, writes:

"Sometimes this greater glorification [of God] entails the greater temporal suffering of the elect in order to increase the witness of God in the midst of the nations."

Longman was writing to explain why God hardened Pharaoh's heart and took the time to produce the ten plagues rather than just leading his people out of Egypt, but the same could be said for other examples of suffering as well.

When we suffer, what we need to remember is who God is. One of the first names used for God in the Bible (Genesis 2.46) is YHWH Elohim. This name signifies that God rules both created order and history. It is important to recognize that God created the world and people to be perfect and to be a part of his righteous Kingdom. When the kingdom was lost due to the rebellion of Adam and Eve, God chose to re-establish his kingdom by conquering his enemies and redeeming a people to be a part of a new kingdom. Both the Old and the New Testament are the story of God's kingdom coming to fruition, and history is the vehicle through which it comes to pass. Suffering feels personal, but it is a part of something much larger than ourselves.

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