Have you ever heard it said that suffering is a “mystery”? Or supposed that it was a punishment? Or that “a just God would not allow people to suffer?” These are all false, blind statements of those who lack spiritual insight. The Bible speaks clearly.
“We” are made, or rather our physical bodies are made out of the stuff of the earth. Adam is “man” in Hebrew “a- Dam- a is “earth.” First God made the earth, then he made these bodies out of the stuff of the earth and breathed into them the spirit, each a portion. The inhabitant of this House of flesh is the spirit; The flesh is a house made of earth and it must return to the earth. It hurts. But the separation is necessary and inevitable.
But what of suffering? I am convinced that suffering is part of the reason we are put here. Our immature spirits have not suffered, and they are hardly ready to do much in the Kingdom.
Read in Hebrews 2: 5- 18. Christ made himself lower than the Angels by living a life in the flesh. He purified himself by suffering- poverty, false accusations, arrest, torture and a cruel execution. As he said in John10: 18, he did this voluntarily for our sake.
And, as he was purified by suffering, we become his brothers and sisters by suffering. Look at Hebrews 2: 10- 12. In suffering, we who hold fast in faith through suffering are his brothers and sisters. So Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers! “I will declare your name to my brothers; In the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.”
You cannot avoid all suffering, but living a comfortable, protected life of wealth and ease can actually be detrimental.
Read revelations 3: 15- 22. Ease tends to make us lukewarm. We do not recognize that the safe path does not produce spiritual growth. What does he mean about “gold refined in by fire?” We have to be tested in the crucible of hardship and pain and fear of death. Then our faith can be strong. “…suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us…” Romans 5: 3- 5, in part. Rejoice in suffering it does not feel good at the time, as my recent experience reminds me. It was awful. But my faith held. This brings me joy and the hope that my faith will be tempered for the harder tests to come.
The answer to the mystery was revealed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I saw him in a vision and I tell you he lives. Likewise, we suffer pain of every type- physical and emotional- and the body of flesh dies. But the spirit endures, and we will be raised in new bodies at the last day. John 6: 40; One Corinthians 15: 35- 58.
Therefore, go about God's business with a glad heart. If someone dies, weep for a day, but then rejoice that their race is won. If I fall ill pray for my faith to be strong even to death.
One caution: in some cultures men whip themselves and even crucify themselves “for Christ.” He has neither asked this of us nor indicated any approval of this practice. This life will cause you enough suffering. I see no reason to do these things. God will call us to service if we are his. Obey the call and everything you need will be provided.
Therefore, understand that suffering is part of life, unavoidable. If it does not kill you, it makes you stronger in spirit. It is a test; If your faith holds it is genuine and growing. Rejoice! You must understand this. If all you believe is that Christ will never let you suffer, you may fail the test. Remember, the flesh counts for nothing! The spirit is everything. God will sacrifice the flesh to save the spirit. Try to be focused on God’s work and not on the future with its suffering. Just understand, it is for Him we suffer, who first suffered for us, and did so gladly. Amen.