The Suffering Issue

 

The purposes of this article are to: (1) to explain various types of suffering, (2) to help the reader discover why he may suffer, and (3) lay out a checklist of some positive responses to suffering.


Persecution
If you are a Believer and walking in faith and righteousness, you can expect persecution.  Many Old Testament saints suffered persecution.  Jesus was crucified, Stephen was stoned to death, Paul and Silas were put in prison, and John was exiled to the Isle of Patmos.  We can expected ridicule and persecution.  Jesus said, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you"  (Matthew 5:10-12).  Jesus did not say, "Follow me and you will never be persecuted."  The indication is that we can expect persecution.  After all, if the world persecuted Jesus, can his followers expect any less? 

 The Word gives us a picture of suffering of Old Testament saints saying, "Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:    And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:    They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;    (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth"  (Hebrews 11:35-38).


 
Attack From The Enemy
Since man God's special creation, man has a natural spiritual enemy.  Since Satan can not attack God directly, he attack us whenever he finds an opportunity.  Jesus healed a woman who had been under attack by the enemy for years.  "And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?"  (Luke 13:16). 

Sometimes God directs the attack that we might be restrained in a particular area.  Paul experienced such an attack.  "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.  And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)   How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.  Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.  For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.   And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure"  (II Corinthians 12:2-7) 

God may also permit the enemy to attack us that hidden weaknesses might be revealed.  Job was a righteous man who turned away from evil.  "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil" (Job 1:1).  Job did not sin in his action: "In all this Job sinned not, not charged God foolishly" (Job 1:22).  Job did not sin in his words: "In all this did not Job sin with his lips" (Job 2:10b).  However, Job had a problem with his thoughts.  "For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come to me.  I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came" (Job 3:25-25).  In essence, Job was saying, "I did what was right, but I knew that God would not protect me from evil."  Elihu, the righteous counselor confirms this in speaking about Job, "For hath said, It profiteth a man nothing that he should delight himself with God" (Job 34:9).  Finally, Job acknowledges the sin of his thoughts by saying to God, "I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee ... I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.  Wherefore, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:2, 5-6).


 
Pruning
Sometimes we suffer because God is doing some pruning in our lives.  It does not have to be something bad that God is taking away.  God may be removing something "good" and that He may replace it with His best.

"Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit"  (John 15:2).


 
Discipline of God
God is a loving God who because of that love disciplines His children.  When Miriam spoke against Moses who was God's ordain leader over the people, God stuck her with leprosy.  "And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.  And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it.  (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)   And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out.  And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth.  And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.  My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.  With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?  And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed.  And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.  And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned.    Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother's womb.  And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee.  And the LORD said unto Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again.  And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days: and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again.  And afterward the people removed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the wilderness of Paran" (Numbers 12:1-16) 

Even David admitted that he had come under the discipline of God.  "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes"  (Psalms 119:71). 

The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us about God's discipline.  "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?    But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.    Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?    For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.   Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby"  (Hebrews 12:6-11).  We are to allow discipline to change us.


 
Tribulation
The word "tribulation" gives us a picture of a grape being squeezed to the point that the inside comes to the outside.  Jesus said that we can expect tribulation,  "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world"  (John 16:33). 

Many people have to experience tribulation before they seek God.  "Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God"  (Acts 14:22).  In the midst of tribulation, we can look to see what God is doing. 

There is alway a purpose in tribulation.  "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience"  (Romans 5:3) . 

Tribulation should not come a surprise.  We should expect it.  "For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know" (I Thessalonians 3:4). 

 God knows when we experience tribulation.  "I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan"  (Revelation 2:9).


 
Aging Process
Since man no longer has direct access to the Tree of Life which was in the Garden of Eden, he must face an aging process.  Most young people don't fully realize the aging process.  However, with the aging process there may be lost of sight, hearing, teeth, strength, memory, and mobility. 

Abraham and Sarah experience the aging process. "Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women"  (Genesis 18:11). 

Jacob, who God called, Israel, experienced the aging process.  "Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see. And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them"  (Genesis 48:10).


 
Evil in the World
We all suffer to some degree because of evil in the world.  First, we see a general suffering because of evil.  "Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.    Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death"  (Psalms 107:17-18). 

Second, others suffer because of the evil of some.  Noah lost everything but his family because of the evil in the world.  Lot lost his city, his home, and his wife because of evil in world. 

Third, sometimes we suffer as direct result of evil in our own lives.  "And the LORD smote the king, so that he was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house. And Jotham the king's son was over the house, judging the people of the land"  (II Kings 15:5).  In the New Testament we find that King Herod was struck by an Angel because of his sin of pride.  "And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.  And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.  But the word of God grew and multiplied"  (Acts 12:21-24).


 
For the Glory of God
All suffering is not the direct result of sin.  There was a man that suffered blindness that might Jesus heal him, and that God might receive the glory.  "And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?   Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world"  (John 9:1-5). 

In the Old Testament,  king Hezekiah got sick and was about to die, but he appealed to God based upon his righteousness.  "In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.    Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying,    I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.  And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying,  Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.  And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.  And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.  And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day?    And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?  And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees.  And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz" (II Kings 20:1-11).  Hezekiah's life was extended that God might receive the glory.


 



 

A Checklist For Those Who Suffer
 
T
F
Answer each question with either True [T] or False [F] by checking the appropriate column. Check the left column for True and the right column for False.

1. I have learned the whole counsel of God in the matter.  (Acts 20:27, II Timothy 3:16)
2. I understand that a curse does not come without a cause. (Proverbs 26:2)
3. I praise God even in the midst of my suffering.  (Acts 16:23-25, II Chronicles 20:21-22)
4. I continue to give God thanks for His righteous judgments.  (Isaiah 25:1-2, Jonah 2:9)
5. I have learned to be content in my situation. (Philippians 4:11-12)
6. I continue to thank God for my situation.  (I Thessalonians 5:23, Ephesians 5:20)
7. I have sought the Lord with my whole heart.  (II Chronicles 15:4, Deuteronomy 4:19)
8. I have submitted my life unto God and resisted the devil.  (James 5:7)
Remember . . . it is only a test.
9. I understand that God is for me.  (Romans 8:31-39)
10. I have cast all my cares upon God and left them with Him. (I Peter 5:7-9)
11. I understand that God is sovereign in the situation. (Daniel 3:16-18)
12. I have determined to do right in the midst of my suffering.  (Philippians 2:7-8)
13. I have repented and turned to God. (Revelation 2:5, Revelation 3:19)
14. I have learned to hear from God in the midst of suffering. (II Samuel 5:23-24)
15. I believe God can change the curse into a blessing. (Genesis 50:20, Deuteronomy 23:5)
16. I trust that God will work all things together for my good. (Romans 8:28)
God will see you through.
17. I have asked God for His mercy and grace. (Hebrews 4:16)
18. I have forgiven and asked God to forgive my offenders. (Matthew 6:14-15, Acts 7:60)
19. I have made proper appeals to men and to God. (Daniel 1:8-20, II Kings 20:1-11)
20. I see that persecution for righteousness is a blessing. (Matthew 5:6)
21. I continue to love, bless, and pray for all my enemies. (Matthew 5:44)
22. I have confessed and asked God to forgive me of all my sins. (I John 1:9)
23. I have learned to rejoice in the midst of my trials. (James 1:2-4, Philippians 4:4)
24. I have allowed God to do the fighting for me. (II Chronicles 20:17)
Congratulations! You have finished the quiz.
Now you can thank God for the TRUE answers and work on the False ones.
You may want to print the material for further study.
 



Scripture References

Acts 20:27  "For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." Return=/\.

II Timothy 3:16   "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness"  Return=/\

Proverbs 26:2  "As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come."   Return=/\.

Acts 16:23-25  "And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:   Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.  And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them."  Return=/\.

II Chronicles 20:20-21 "And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.  And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever."  Return=/\

Isaiah 25:1-2  "O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.    For thou hast made of a city an heap; of a defenced city a ruin: a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built." Return=/\.

Jonah 2:9   "But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD."  Return=/\.

Philippians 4:11-12   "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.    I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need."  Return=/\.

Thessalonians 5:23    "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."   Return=/\.

Ephesians 5:20    "Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."   Return=/\.

II Chronicles 15:4   "But when they in their trouble did turn unto the LORD God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them."  Return=/\.

Deuteronomy 4:19  "And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven."   Return=/\.

James 5:7   "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain."  Return=/\.

Romans 8:31-39   "What shall we then say to these things?  If God be for us, who can be against us?    He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?    Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?  It is God that justifieth.    Who is he that condemneth?  It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.    Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?    As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.    Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.    For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,    Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."   Return=/\.

Peter 5:7-9   "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:  Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world."   Return=/\

Daniel 3:16-18    "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.    If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.    But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."   Return=/\.

Philippians 2:7-8   "But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:    And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."   Return=/\.

Revelation 2:5    "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent."   Return=/\.

Revelation 3:19   "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent." Return=/\.

II Samuel 5:23-24   "And when David enquired of the LORD, he said, Thou shalt not go up; but fetch a compass behind them, and come upon them over against the mulberry trees.    And let it be, when thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the LORD go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines."  Return=/\.
 

Genesis 50:20   "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive."  Return=/\.

Deuteronomy 23:5   "Nevertheless the LORD thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the LORD thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the LORD thy God loved thee."  Return=/\.

Romans 8:28   "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose."  Return=/\.

Hebrews 4:16  "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."  Return=/\.

Matthew 6:14-15  "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:    But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."  Return=/\.

Acts 7:60   "And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep."   Return=/\.

Daniel 1:8-20   "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.    Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.    And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.    Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,    Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.    Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.    So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.    And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat.    Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.    As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.    Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.    And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.    And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm."  Return=/\.

II Kings 20:1-11    "In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.    Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying,    I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.    And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying,   Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.    And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.   And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.   And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day?   And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?   And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees.   And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz."   Return=/\.

Matthew 5:6   "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."   Return=/\.

Matthew 5:44    "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."   Return=/\.

John 1:9   "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."   Return=/\.

James 1:2-4    "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;    Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."  Return=/\

Philippians 4:4  "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice."  Return=/\.

II Chronicles 20:17   "Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you."  Return=/\.


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