Why do Christians suffer?
If you’ve lived through, or are living through suffering, you’ve likely wondered this. I know I have.
I’ve faced the loss of loved ones, divorce, unexpected job loss, overwhelming stress, and severe depression. I’ve felt the effects of the losses, physical and mental illnesses, and life-altering depression and anxiety, of those closest to me.
Why Do Christians Suffer?
Unfortunately, honoring God with our lives doesn’t make us immune to suffering. Why?
We live in a fallen world.
Although God created a perfect world, we managed to mess it up pretty immediately in the garden of Eden. That means we’re now subject to a daily battle with temptation, and to experience the consequences of our own sins and those of others.
It means humanity will experience heartache and pain, loss, injustice, natural disasters, and constant discord. God has since restored us to himself through Jesus, but will not restore the world to perfection until Jesus returns.
Jesus himself suffered.
Even Jesus didn’t escape suffering as he walked this fallen Earth. Although he himself never sinned, he was constantly targeted by religious scholars and leaders.
His best friends betrayed and abandoned him. He was beaten and tortured, then died on a cross.
In fact, Jesus came to Earth to suffer. He came to redeem us from the mess we had gotten ourselves into, from the darkness that had claimed our lives.
Jesus calls us to suffering and self-sacrifice.
In Matthew 16:21 (MSG), Jesus shared with his disciples that he would suffer and be killed, and then raised up alive on the third day. Peter protested, but Jesus rebuked him and told him, “You have no idea how God works.”
In Matthew 16:24-26 he continues, “Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself?”
That isn’t to say that we’ll suffer our entire lives, but that we should expect it throughout our lifetime, and try our best to embrace it as a means of uncovering our true selves.
We could debate for hours on this topic, and many do. But I’m not a theologist and have yet to see someone’s mind changed by a heated debate.
So I rest in the simple fact that God’s ways are higher than mine. Like Peter, I have no idea how God works.
How to Survive Suffering
But if I’m anything, I’m practical. So I choose to focus on what I can do to survive suffering. Here’s what has worked for me:
Live and breathe God’s word.
It’s imperative that we stay connected to God during this time of suffering.
Suffering often leaves us feeling confused, vulnerable, and utterly alone. And when we feel that way, our thoughts can build on one another to work against us, convincing us that we’ll never escape our suffering, and that God has abandoned us.
Our thoughts lie.
How do we push out the lies? By consistently taking in God’s truths.
Luckily for us, he provided us with an entire book of his truths, the Bible. So start your day in the Word. And end it in the Word.
When you’re feeling bored before bed, open up your Bible app instead of your Facebook app. It takes a lot of truth to drown out a lot of lies.
Satan very much wants you to allow your circumstances to distract you from your faith.
When we’re in the depths of depression, we just want to sleep there. When we’re feeling anxiety rising in our chest, we want to obsess over our stressors, replaying them in our head over and over again.
Instead, bring it all to God. Share your frustrations with him, and then find something for which you can thank him. Prayer helps to shift your perspective, and to refocus you on your faith and your purpose.
Need a little help getting started? Be sure to check out How to Pray | Jesus’ Simple Guide + All Your Questions Answered, Guaranteed!
Start each day with the Bible and prayer.
How you begin your day will set the tone for the rest of your day. So start your day praising God, bringing every need to him, and reading his Word.
Make a conscious decision to start your day on your own terms, and not on the terms of your current circumstances.
Keep a journal of what God is teaching and showing you.
Writing down my thoughts on my Bible reading, or on a particular sermon, helps me to better process my thoughts and feelings. It also provides me with a fantastic point of reference.
When I review it days or weeks down the road, I can better see how God is moving in my life, even when I feel alone.
Look for opportunities to learn and grow.
My divorce nearly ten years ago was terribly difficult. But it forced me to learn important lessons about true love and commitment, and about myself.
I learned to let go of my own plans and truly surrender my life to God. I’ve also been able to share my story with others to help and encourage them.
How can you come out of this situation better than you went in?
Jesus said above, “Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself.”
Volunteer your time at a food bank or homeless ministry. Donate money to help others. Commit random acts of kindness for strangers.
As John Holmes once said, “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”
Seek professional help.
Yes, trust God for your healing. But God has also provided us with doctors, therapists, and counselors, to aid in our physical and emotional healing.
You’re not the first person to experience this situation and you won’t be last. Doctors and counselors have helped thousands of people just like you when the situation was within their expertise. Utilize that knowledge!
Surround yourself with supportive believers.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “It’s better to have a partner than go it alone…By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.”
It’s tempting in our suffering to isolate ourselves, but isolation is unhealthy and dangerous. Make the effort to stay in regular, honest communication with those that share your convictions and can help to lift you up and encourage you.
First Peter 2:21-25 sums up our answer perfectly.
This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. He never did one thing wrong, not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.
Why do Christians suffer? Because we live in a fallen world. Jesus suffered and has called us to suffering and self-sacrifice.
But we can survive suffering by diving into the Bible and prayer first thing every morning and throughout the day. We can keep a journal, look for opportunities to grow and serve others, seek professional help, and surround ourselves with supportive believers.
Take heart, friends! We’re just following in the footsteps of our Lord. And we’ll follow him all the way through our suffering to victory on the other side.
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