God created this world with certain physical properties. God also allows man to have freedom in how he uses this world with its physical properties. Therefore, it is possible for pain and suffering to exist. Illustration – “sticks and stones may break bones” and injure skin, muscle, and nerves, thus producing pain. It is possible for a man to use sticks and stones to injure and even kill another. Therefore, it is possible for pain to exist in this world. In fact, I would argue that it is impossible for God to remove the possibility of pain and suffering without totally changing the physical properties of this world and/or man’s freedom.
Suffering is very much a normal part of life upon this earth. Job remarked, “Man who is born of woman is of a few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).
The purpose of this writing is to provide helpful advice in dealing with suffering.
1. Remember that your pains are not unique.
While your situation may be unique in some ways, suffering is common to humanity. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13). “The whole creation groans” (Romans 8:22). Remembering this will help keep one from a distorted view of suffering. It is not just you.
2. Remember that Christ also suffered.
Peter said that he was “a witness of the sufferings of Christ” (1 Peter 5:1). Twice, he wrote, “Christ also suffered” (1 Peter 2:21; 3:18). Peter explicitly mentions the suffering of Christ seven times in 1 Peter (1:11; 2:21; 2:23; 3:18; 4:1; 4:13; 5:1). The writer of Hebrews explicitly mentions such five times (2:9; 2:10; 5:8; 9:26; 13:12). We’re exhorted, “consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:3-4). God “did not spare His own Son” from suffering (Romans 8:32).
3. Endurance is needed for glorification.
Paul wrote, “If children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:17). Again, “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:12).
4. A better realm awaits.
Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12). Paul said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed” (Romans 8:18). Again, “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory… For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4: 17-18).
5. Don’t forget that God knows what you go through on earth.
The Psalmist penned, “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8). God is pictured as being so concerned and interested in man that He catches and keeps every tear that falls. If God knows what happens to each sparrow (Luke 12:6-7), then He must know what we go through on earth. God knows and He cares. One day, He wants to “wipe away every tear” (Revelation 21:4).
6. Keep in mind that life has purpose.
Man is not here simply to live a life of pleasure. Man is here to fear and obey (Ecclesiastes 12:13), glorify (1 Corinthians 6:20), and magnify (Philippians 1:20) God.
7. Don’t forget to pray.
“Is anyone suffering? Let him pray” (James 5:13). No, we won’t always receive the answer which we seek. However, it is possible that we might (cf. 2 Kings 20:5-6; James 5:17-18).
1. Be compassionate.
Let’s be a people who are sympathetic to others. Paul instructs, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
2. If you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything.
Your presence is helpful. Don’t feel that you must have all the answers. Job’s friends were doing fine until they opened their mouths.
The Bible teaches that we should be good listeners. “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13)
Sometimes people just need to vent. Job said, “Bear with me that I may speak… put your hand over your mouth” (Job 21:3, 5). Don’t be too quick to speak.
4. Provide or read with the sufferer passages of comfort and encouragement.
Here are some suggestions: Psalms 23; 37:1-11; 73:1-8, 16-17; 119:49-56; Proverbs 15:3; Ecclesastes 12:13-14; Matthew 5:10-12; John 14:1-3; 16:33; Romans 8:31-39; 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1; Philippians 4:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Timothy 2:11-13; Hebrews 11:1-12:4; 1 Peter 1:3-12; 2 Peter 1:2-11; Revelaton 21-22.
5. Look for ways to help.
John 9:1-3 reads, “Now as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was blind from birth. And his disciples asked him saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.’”
The disciples saw an issue to be discussed. Many Jews believed that such human suffering was always closely connected with personal sin (some claimed that one could sin in the womb, others believed in reincarnation), or the sin of one’s close ancestry (parents, grandparents, etc.).
Jesus saw an opportunity to do the works of God. Note: “that” sometimes denotes effect and not cause (cf. John 9:39; Matthew 23:34-35, etc.).
We may not always have the reason to why a certain individual is suffering; However, let us look for opportunities to do good. May we shine as lights of God on this world (Matthew 5:16).
6. Let us pray with and for the one in pain.
We’re to be a people who “pray for one another” (James 5:16).
These are some things we can do. “God…comforts us in our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God”(2 Corinthians 1:3-4). “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).