(Adversities, Disasters and Tragedies)
DEFINITION: Suffering is pain that is experienced physically, mentally, or emotionally. It is distress that results from physical affliction, psychological and emotional troubles, loss, adversities, and tragedies.
FACTS ABOUT SUFFERING:
Suffering entered the world because of sin. From the time of the first sin committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:17-18), evil entered the world and suffering has been part of its tragic manifestations.
Suffering is not always due to personal sin. While it is true that you can suffer from the consequences of personal sin, all suffering is not caused by personal sin. That is one of the key revelations of the book of Job.
The ways suffering comes into the life of a believer include the following:
-Persecution: Some suffering comes through persecution because of a person’s faith in God or their ministry. Saul pursued David because of his calling as king (1 Samuel 23). Haman attempted to annihilate the Jewish race (Esther 3:5-6). Daniel and his three friends suffered for their faith (Daniel 3:6). The Apostle Paul suffered intensely during his ministry (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). History records that many of the disciples of Christ died as martyrs.
-Consequences: Some suffering comes through consequences of not listening to good advice or rejecting the Word of the Lord. An analogy of this is found in the parable of the foolish man who built his house on sand and then had it collapse in the storm (Matthew 7:26-27). A modern-day example would be building your house in a known flood zone and suffering flooding because of your poor decision.
-Others: Sometimes you suffer because of those around you who create circumstances that cause difficulties for you. The relationship between Abraham and Lot is a good example. Abraham was constantly having problems because of Lot’s poor decisions (Genesis 12-14).
-Judgment: God judges personal sin. Cain suffered for the murder of his brother Abel (Genesis 4:13-14). Joab was executed for killing two innocent men (1 Kings 2:32). God judged Adoni-Bezek for his inhumane treatment of enemy kings (Judges 1:7).
-Discipline: The purpose of discipline is to correct sin and restore a believer to right relationship with God. Nathan confronting David’s sin and its subsequent judgment caused him to repent of adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 51).
-Ministry: Adversity prepares you to fulfill God’s purposes and sometimes results from your ministry. Joseph suffered as a slave and a prisoner in order that the entire world could be saved from a great famine (Genesis 50:20). Jesus suffered and died so that the world could be saved from sin. The disciples were persecuted, imprisoned, and martyred for their ministries.
-Circumstances of life: Natural circumstances of life like tornados, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc., can cause undeserved suffering.
-Satanic attack: Job chapters 1-2 illustrate how Satanic attack can be a cause of undeserved suffering.
Three important things to remember about suffering.
-There is a spiritual reason behind the suffering of the righteous: Job l:6-l2; 2:l-6.
-Satan cannot afflict a believer without the permission of God: Job l:6-l2; 2:l-6.
-God knows how much you can bear and will not let Satan go beyond this point: 1 Corinthians l0:l3.
Suffering takes many forms. It includes physical pain and the grief and sorrow caused by losses in life. Mental suffering can be caused by negative emotions like guilt, shame, remorse, anger, and unforgiveness. Suffering can also be manifested through depression and oppression caused by the enemy.
The normal responses to suffering include grief and sorrow which are intense emotional reactions to tragedy, suffering, and bereavement.
The call of Jesus to His followers was one of denial and suffering. See Matthew 10:38; 16:24; Mark 8:34; 10:21; Luke 9:23; 14:27 In each of these verses, Jesus calls His followers to deny themselves, take up their cross of suffering, and follow Him.
Suffering always has divine purpose. “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). You learn that testing strengthens your character (James 1:2-3) and refines positive qualities in your life (Job 23:10). The writer of Hebrews says that trials and chastening prove that you are God’s child (Hebrews 12:6-8).
Here are some positive benefits of suffering.
Your faith is tested: Everything in the spiritual world is based on faith. This is why the strength of your faith must be tested through trials (1 Peter 1:7).
You are able to comfort others: When you are comforted during trials, you learn how to extend that same comfort to others. ( 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
You learn not to trust your own self: Paul spoke of the purpose of his sufferings in Asia, explaining that through them he learned not to trust in himself (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
Positive qualities are developed: Qualities that conform you into the image of Christ are developed through suffering (1 Peter 5:10, Romans 8:28-29; Hebrews 2:10,18).
The works of God are manifested: When the disciples saw a man who had been blind from birth, they asked who was responsible for his condition. Was it the sin of his parents or those of the man himself? Jesus said that the man was suffering so that the works of God could be manifested in him (John 9:3).
The power of God is perfected: God’s power is perfect despite your weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9).
That which is unstable is removed: Suffering results in all that is unstable being shaken out of your life. You cease to depend on people, programs, or material things because these all fail in your time of need (Hebrews 12:26-27). During the storms of life, everything crumbles that is not built upon God and His Word (Psalm 119:89 and Matthew 7:24-27).
Your focus is changed: When you experience suffering, you often focus your attention on cause and effect. You are concerned with what caused the difficult circumstances and the terrible effect it is having in your life. In suffering, God changes your focus from the temporal to the eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18; 1 Peter 4:12-13; 2 Timothy 2:12).
God prepares you for ministry: You want to be used by God, you desire to be more like Jesus, and to be a chosen vessel for His use. God answers your prayer through suffering because He chooses His ministers in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10).
You are prepared to reign with Christ: The Bible says if you suffer with Him, you will also reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12).
You receive spiritual blessings: Jesus said your reward will be great in Heaven (Matthew 5:10-12).
You learn obedience: Even Jesus, who was sinless, learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8). Even a person who is righteous, good, and moral can learn more about obedience by suffering.
You are humbled: The Bible says that the nation of Israel was humbled because of the suffering experienced in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8:15-16).
You come to know God more intimately: Job, who suffered much, learned this truth and declared that because of his suffering, he really came to see God in a new way (Job 42:5-6).
The important thing is to realize is that regardless of the reason for suffering, God is sovereign over it. Nothing happens of which He is not aware. He is merciful, ready to forgive and restore, and will help you through corrective, punitive, and undeserved suffering. Every day of your life was written before you were even born. No difficulty, suffering, or tragedy comes as a surprise to God (Psalm 139:13-18).
DEALING WITH SUFFERING:
Do not focus on reasons for your suffering. This was the original sin–wanting to know. Eve wanted to become as God and know all things (Genesis 3). For some tragedies, there are no good answers. The reason for some things will be revealed, others will not. You must learn that the secret things belong to the Lord (Deuteronomy 29:29). Commit your suffering and your unanswered questions to God.
Realize that Jesus bore your suffering. The Bible says Jesus was not only familiar–acquainted with grief–but that He also bore your grief and sorrow (Isaiah 53:3-5). Jesus bore your sin so that you no longer have to bear it. If He also bore your grief and sorrow, so why are you bearing it?
Release your feelings to God. Tell the Lord how you feel. Release your sorrow, grief, and questions to Him. If you are angry about your suffering, confess it to God. Ask God to heal your emotions. Know that the feelings you are experiencing are common in times of suffering but you do not have to continue having these feelings. God is able and ready to heal them.
Call upon the Holy Spirit to comfort you. One of the purposes of the Holy Spirit is to comfort in times of suffering, grief, and sorrow. When you are overwhelmed with suffering, call upon the Holy Spirit to come and fulfill His purpose of supernatural comfort (John 14:6). As a believer, you have the Comforter resident within you. He is always available in times of need. You are never alone. The Lord is near those whose hearts are broken (Psalm 34:18).
Focus on eternal things. If you focus on eternal things, your suffering actually works in your behalf (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Do not focus on the circumstances of your suffering. Focus on God, His Word, His promises to you, and what He is doing in your life.
Know that all things are working together for your good. God takes all things–even the bad things, the losses, and sorrows–and weaves them together for good in the fabric of your life (Romans 8:28).
Remember these six “p”s of suffering:
-Purpose: God has divine purpose in your suffering.
-Profitable: Your suffering is profitable if you submit to God and trust Him.
-Presence: God is with you in your suffering.
-Prove: Your faith will be proven by the difficulties.
-Produce: Your suffering will produce positive spiritual qualities in your life.
-Perspective: You will emerge with a new perspective.
WHAT GOD’S WORD SAYS ABOUT SUFFERING:
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever… (Deuteronomy 29:29)
But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)
Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared. (Proverbs 3:25)
When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous have a refuge. (Proverbs 14:32)
You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry. (Psalm 10:17)
He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (Psalm 18:19)
For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. (Psalm 22:24)
Look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. (Psalm 25:18)
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. (Psalm 30:11-12)
I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. (Psalm 31:7)
Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. (Psalm 31:9)
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; (Psalm 34:18-19)
Why are you downcast, 0 my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 43:5)
For he has delivered me from all my troubles. (Psalm 54:7)
In God I trust; I will not be afraid. (Psalm 56:4)
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. (Psalm 57:1)
In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. (Psalm 118:5)
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. (Psalm 119:28)
My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. (Psalm 119:50)
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. (Psalm 119:67)
It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. (Psalm 119:71-72)
Preserve my life, O Lord, according to your word. (Psalm 119:107)
Look upon my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law. (Psalm 119:153)
I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me. (Psalm 120:1)
The Lord will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121:7-8)
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. (Psalm 138:7)
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)
If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength! (Proverbs 24:10)
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces. (Isaiah 25:8)
Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. (Isaiah 38:17)
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. (Isaiah 43:2)
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. (Isaiah 48:10)
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)
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. (Isaiah 58:9)
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)
But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. (Luke 21:12, NKJV)
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:26-27)
Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me
I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. (John 16:20)
“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)
And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, 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 14:20-22, KJV)
I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be joy revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-38)
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:13)
We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world. (1 Corinthians 4:12-13)
For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:5-7)
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
If the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. (2 Corinthians 5:1)
Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:4-10)
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, (Philippians 1:29)
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)
…so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4)
Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5)
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. (2 Timothy 2:3)
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)
But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:5, NKJV)
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while,
He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith.
And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (Hebrews 10:32-39)
Hebrews chapter 11: The hall of fame for faithful men and women of God who suffered.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:7-11)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:10-11)
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:19-22)
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. (1 Peter 4:1)
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (1 Peter 4:12-14)
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19)
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:10)
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
(See also “Grief And Sorrow” in this database.)