This article focuses on two Unique Purposes of suffering in Christian life.
As a Christian I often expect God Almighty to take care of all facets of my life, so that I do not have to go through any suffering.
Also, I often expect to be free from suffering for the reason that I am a disciple of Christ Jesus, but the reality is quite different from what I imagine or expect. I think this might be the experience of most of the Christians out there.
Suffering is a reality in Christian life and no one can escape from it. We all go through some kind of suffering at some point in time in our Christian Walk.
I think we may not be successful If we try to explain the genuine causes of these sufferings.
However, from the Holy Scriptures we get a little bit of understanding about them, especially from the life of prophets and early Christians.
I think, God definitely has a reason and purpose for allowing suffering in a believer’s life. But we may not comprehend them fully in this life. For that, we may have to wait until we reach HIS heavenly home.
Anyway, here, I am making a very humble attempt to explain two unique purposes of suffering based on my understanding of the Holy Scriptures.
Though there are many purposes according to the Bible, I just want to focus only on two of them so as keep this article a bit short.
First, we, as believers, need to bear this fact always in mind:
We, live in a fallen world in which both believers and unbelievers suffer equally. Though suffering is common to all, sometimes I think, believers suffer more than unbelievers.
However, the difference is: we, believers, have a Mighty God to carry us through those sufferings.
In fact, this can be said as one of the main differences between a believer and an unbeliever.
Next, let us examine the two unique purposes of suffering in Christian life.
1.Suffering is a channel through which God’s comfort flow into our lives.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. ((2 Corinthians, 1, 3-4)
In verse 4 Apostle Paul talks about the sufferings or troubles that they are going through and also about the comforting they are receiving from God.
Furthermore, he also expects to comfort those who might go through similar sufferings with the same comfort he received from God.
So, here, he becomes like a conduit through which the comforting of God flows.
As I told you earlier, we live in a fallen world in which suffering is a common thing. Both Believers and unbelievers alike go through sufferings at some point in their lives but the difference is:
Believers are comforted by the LORD Almighty and provided a way out.
Moreover, believers are also equipped to comfort and strengthen their fellow- believers who are going through similar kind of sufferings. This is what actually happened in Apostle Paul’s life.
He and his fellow-workers went through a lot of hardships but these hardships became a channel through which God’s comfort flowed into their lives and also into the lives of those who were going through similar kind of sufferings.
As you know well, God is the source of all comfort in suffering. No man can comfort or console us in our suffering as God Almighty does.
However, he does not do this by sending Spiritual Beings from heaven, but by using us, believers, as instruments.
To sum up; Sometimes, we, as believers, might go through sufferings for inexplicable reasons. In fact, we may not even understand why things are happening the way they happen.
But the hidden reason might be:
God Almighty, by letting you go through those sufferings or hardships, is preparing you to comfort and strengthen your fellow-believers who might go through similar type of sufferings.
In other words, we are chosen as vessels to store and transfer God’s comfort into somebody else’s life, but before we are used, He might test and strengthen us by allowing us to go through a similar kind of experience.
2.Sufferings are an inevitable Part of our Journey into the Kingdom of God.
Yes, sufferings are an investable part of our journey into the kingdom of God, it is an unavoidable companion on our journey through the narrow Road.
This was true for early Christians and this is true even now, for the 21st century Christians.
Read the verses below, you will get a clear understanding of what I am talking about.
21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. (Acts 14, 21-22)
From the context described in the above verses, we could understand that, those days, both the Apostles and the believers were going through a lot of hardships.
Most of those early believers were on the verge of giving up their faith because of persecution. But Apostle Paul was strengthening and encouraging them to remain true to their faith. Besides, he also reminds them that:
“They need to go through many hardships in order to enter the kingdom of God”
Those days or these days this is the hard reality for a true believer in Christ; his road is narrow and it is paved with hardships.
13“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.(Mathew, 7, 13)
But contemporary mainstream Christianity never teach or preach about this hard reality. Modern preachers promise a Broad road paved with comfort and prosperity.
I think, contemporary Christians might feel even surprised when they read this part, because they haven’t heard any preachers talking seriously about it; instead, what they hear all the time is:
“An invitation to a life of peace and prosperity without any sacrifice.”
However, sufferings and persecutions were hard realities in the lives of early Christians. They paid a heavy price for the faith they embraced. That story has not changed even today.
Even in the 21st century, true believers are going through a lot of hardships because of their faith; but they don’t give up as they know well what their Master has taught them.
See in the following verses what Jesus tells us:
For a true believer in Christ, life in this world is not going to be a bed of roses; and that is what Lord Jesus is reminding us in the above verses.
These verses below too affirm the reality of sufferings in Christian life.
1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. 2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. (1 Peter 1, 1-2)
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.(1 Peter 1, 12-13)
So, let us don’t think that; when we go through sufferings, something strange is happening to us.
If we have chosen the narrow road as our Master has taught us, definitely we will encounter crosses on the way and be prepared to carry them. Amen