What does the Bible say about suffering? Living in a fallen world, we so often see the evil rather than the good and our hearts cry out for peace. Let’s take a deep look at suffering in scripture and my sincere hope is that you not only learn to accept it but rejoice in it.
Why rejoice in it?
Because when we accept our suffering it is liberating. We allow God to transform us into His likeness rather than dwelling in the carnal sinful flesh we’ve been born with.
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Peter 5:10)
Why Does God Allow Suffering?
Let’s address the “elephant in the room” first and get it out of the way. I find this to be a stumbling block for a lot of people.
Why does God allow suffering? If our God is so great and powerful and full of love and mercy, why does He allow suffering in the world?
The horror stories we hear about children held captive in basements by deranged parents, young girls sold as sex slaves, public executions, and widespread starvation, are just a few of the painful situations that might spring to mind.
If God is truly in control, why does He allow such suffering?
To answer this question, we have to go back to the beginning. God created a perfect world, there was no pain and suffering, no death. God looked at what He had created and said that it was “good”.
We know that God’s standard of good is far above ours because He is holy and righteous. He never intended for us to suffer. He didn’t create a world in which we were intended to feel pain and sorrow.
Then what happened? Satan, who was angry that he could not be the all-powerful God that created the world, decided he would try to have a people that would worship him and not their true creator. However, he couldn’t create a people on his own, so he turned to tempting God’s first man and woman.
God didn’t prevent their temptation because He wanted people who would serve Him out of a free will and not a bunch of robots. When Adam and Eve sinned, the goodness of creation was marred and there has been suffering ever since.
Not just people, but the entire world cries to be let out of the bondage of sin and death.
When man sinned, he not only brought about physical death, but spiritual death as well. We were created as spiritual beings, meant to be in constant contact and communication with the greatest spiritual being of all- our creator.
Once sin entered the world and we began a downward spiral of death and destruction, the spiritual part of us continued seeking a higher power to worship. That’s what we had been created to do.
Enter false gods, rampant sin, and lack of conscience.
Why hasn’t God stopped all of it? He will. He had a plan from the beginning, but we are all suffering as we wait for Him to bring it all together.
That being said, He has NOT left us to suffer alone. He has provided a way out of the pain and hurt in the world.
He has also turned suffering into something useful. A way to burn away the sins of the flesh and make us heavenly-minded. Suffering makes us spiritually strong when we turn to God as our source of strength. It creates in us spiritual attributes and changes the corruptible into the incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15:54).
Examples of Suffering in the Bible
The Bible gives us many examples of suffering. Men, women, and children, placed in painful situations as a result of a sinful world.
Job: the Best Example of Suffering in the Bible
The first name that springs to mind when we talk about examples of suffering in the Bible is Job. The story itself is heartbreaking and painful for those hearing it, but reading the book opens a whole new experience. It is figurative and full of these tiny hidden gems of wisdom and truth.
Job was a righteous man. He was also very wealthy.
Satan comes before God and challenges Him saying that Job is only faithful because God had blessed him so much. Enter a very clear story of spiritual warfare. God agrees to allow Satan to take away Job’s wealth and him family.
And Satan does. In one day Job loses all of his animals (how they measured wealth in his day) and a tornado destroys the house his kids are in, killing all of them.
Of course, Job is distraught! What is happening? Does He curse God as Satan expected? No.
Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. (Job 1:20-22)
Amazing attitude, isn’t it?
Satan is annoyed and comes before God again. This time certain that Job is only faithful because he wasn’t suffering physically. God gives Satan permission to strike Job’s health with strict instructions not to kill him.
Poor Job. The poor man went through so much. His wife even loses faith and tells him to curse God and die. Job’s reply?
But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:10)
After a period of time, Job learns a lesson on humility and God lifts Satan’s curse. Because of Job’s faithfulness, God blesses him with a double of everything he had before.
Jeremiah: An Example of Suffering for God
Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, was a mighty voice for God to the nation of Judah just before and during the Babylonian captivity. God sent him to warn the people to turn from their wicked ways otherwise God would punish them.
Judah’s kings didn’t want to listen.
There are beautiful verses of hope in the book of Jeremiah and the prophet seemed to know God in an intimate way most of have not experienced. However, Jeremiah’s words were full of doom to the disobedient nation and he paid for it.
A few of the ways Jeremiah suffered:
- Jeremiah’s life was threatened by those who didn’t want to hear the word of the Lord
- He was put in stocks
- Jeremiah is attacked by a large group of priests and prophets
- He was beat and imprisoned
- Jeremiah was thrown into a miry pit
All of this and what did Jeremiah do about his suffering? Remained obedient to God, bravely speaking His truth even in the face of adversity and death.
Do you know what I admire most about Jeremiah and what I feel is relevant today, is his message was not a popular one. He stood firmly on God’s word in spite of other prophets and priests teaching a contrary message. He did not compromise.
Bible Verses About Suffering
There is no shortage of Bible verses about suffering and pain. My goal is to not only comfort you in your suffering but to help you to rejoice in it. I hope you see that you are not alone in your suffering and it can be used for the glory of God.
I know, rejoicing in suffering sounds like an oxymoron, but I think it is a place of spiritual maturity each of us needs to reach as we learn to let go of this world and embrace a world beyond our own.
1 Peter 4:1-2
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2)
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:10)
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3-5)
These are some of the most beautiful verses in scripture. Our savior, bruised and wounded for us. Our punishment is paid by the Son of God. Our hurt and pain were put on the cross.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes. (Psalm 119:71)
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
This concludes our topic of what does the Bible say about suffering and I hope that if you were feeling discouraged, this post has helped you understand that you are not alone.
Check out these other encouraging posts!