Why Do Christians Suffer?

Question from a Site Viewer
Since Jesus has conquered death and is seated at the right hand of God the Father victorious, why do Christians still suffer today? They should see victory in every area of their life and see abundant fruit because I believe that He came to give us life and life in abundance. There are those who have not accepted Jesus as their personal Saviour and I see them enjoying life in abundance. They are blessed by good health, wealth, etc.

Tim’s Answer
You question why Christians suffer today, given that Jesus already has conquered death and is seated at the right hand of the Father. You see Christians suffer and those who have not accepted Jesus as their personal Savior enjoying life in abundance.

I am not surprised at your question since there are some who seem to imply that Jesus came to deliver us from suffering. Yet, I find such thinking for anyone who reads Scripture to be incredible. Who among God’s true saints has not suffered? All of the apostles suffered. The early church was driven from their homes and scattered (Acts 81). The history of the church is one of suffering. Suffering continues today in the church around the world and will continue until that day when Jesus wipes away all tears from our eyes in the age to come (Revelation 21:4).

The triumph of Christ at the cross was over sin and death. Through His victory on the cross our sins are forgiven and we have the hope of eternal life. But there is no sense in Scripture that those who come to Christ are thereby delivered from suffering. To the contrary, suffering is part and parcel of all that Scripture teaches for Christians. The Apostle Paul states that it has been given to us on the behalf of Christ to suffer for His sake (Philippians 1:29). The word for suffering here is the word for general suffering. Peter writes an entire epistle dealing with the subject of suffering (see 1 Peter). Jesus taught us that those who weep now will be blessed (Luke 6:20-21). Part of the judgment of believers one day will be based on how we have ministered to other Christians in their suffering (Matthew 25:34-46). The Apostle Paul suffered with weariness, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, cold, and lack of clothing (2 Corinthians 11:27). All of the Apostles suffered greatly. And others suffered as well. Timothy suffered frequent illnesses (1 Timothy 5:23).

I do not want to discourage you. Christ has triumphed and those who have a relationship with Him have the privilege of bringing their suffering to Him and seeking His intervention. Yet, as in any relationship, there are two wills present in our relationship with God. While we may will an end to suffering, God may see our suffering as a way to display His character in our lives to a world that needs deliverance from the enemy. Often, it is in our suffering that the true character of Christ is displayed. The Apostle Paul states it this way:

I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10

Some feel that if the Christian life is one of suffering, why would one want to be a Christian? The answer to that question is easy. Those who come to Christ have peace with God (Romans 5:1). There is an inward relationship with the eternal God that becomes more and more rich and rewarding to those who commit themselves to Him. We gain the privilege of walking with Him, even as the saints of old have done. He enriches our lives with love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These are the true riches of life. He also promises to provide what we need, as we seek to walk with Him (Matthew 6:33). We may not have much in the eyes of this world (see 1 Timothy 6:6-10), but we have all blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3).

There is another aspect to your question. Why is it that Christians sometimes seem to suffer more than other people? This was precisely the same question raised by the Psalmist in Psalm 73. Job also addresses the issue in Job 21. The answer is that the Christian is being both trained and used by God in this world to accomplish the will of Christ in the saving of people. The unbeliever is not. Thus, God shapes and molds us; He displays His character in our suffering and uses suffering to perfect us into the image of Jesus Christ. For the unbeliever, God does not have the same interest in them. Therefore, God often lets them live (in this life) easily and comfortably. Yet, their lives are impoverished because the inmost part of their being is dead. They do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. And at the end, if they do not come to Christ, they will perish in their sins. For the unbeliever, the best days for them are now. For the believer, the best days for us will be when Christ comes to take us home. This is our hope and a life lived by faith is focused on this hope.

I hope this helps you. If you are suffering, I encourage you to take heart. You are in great company with the church, with the Apostles, and with Christ Himself. May the Lord Jesus lead you through your suffering and into the blessings of His great kingdom. If you are not suffering, then I encourage you to seek to aid those who are. This is the calling of the Christian.

A fellow pilgrim,

tim

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