God never intended for his creation to suffer. And most would agree that foolish choices by way of sin and rebellion can lead to suffering. But should suffering befall disciples of Jesus Christ? In a word, yes. If my last four blog posts have not convinced you, then let’s dive into the New Testament for more evidence.
Jesus suffered more than any human before or after him. He had first-hand knowledge of rejection, humiliation, injustice, and shunning by friends and family. He prepared his proponents to expect the same (Matt. 5:44–45). The one who has not examined Christ’s last hours should know that metal and bony spicules tore his flesh to ribbons; cold iron spikes slammed into his hands and feet. The splintered wood scoured his slashes as Christ suffocated to death on a cross. Worshipers partake in his broken body, their lips tasting the blood of his slow execution. Christ suffered because of sin (1 John 3:8). So do humans.
Paul, Jesus’s first lieutenant, asserted that a true Christian leader perseveres in suffering (2 Cor. 6:4–5). And Paul should know, because he endured imprisonment, beatings, stoning, shipwreck, hunger and thirst (1 Cor. 4:11–12; Phil. 1:12–14). He and his missionaries suffered destitution, abuse, and physical ailments (2 Cor. 1:8–10). Even Christ’s disciples endured stoning, sawing in two, crucifixion, and beheading. Paul had a thorn in his flesh that he thrice asked the Lord to remove to no avail (2 Cor. 12:7–9). But God had no intention of removing the thorn because he wanted Paul to depend on him rather than himself. As Randy Alcorn puts it, “Those who claim anyone with enough faith will be healed must believe they have greater faith than Paul and his fellow missionaries” (2 Cor. 4:8–10; 17–18). Even so, some claim that Paul’s suffering stood as proof that he lacked faith. Absurd, considering that Paul died for his beliefs. Alcorn attests, “Christians should expect to suffer more, not less, since they suffer under the Fall and as followers of Christ. If your goal is to avoid suffering in this life, then following Christ will not help you.” Pastor Matt Chandler declares that whomever God uses mightily, he wounds deeply.
Although Jesus condemned sin, he never condemned suffering. Jesus had compassion for the sick and poor. Devout believers in Jesus Christ will suffer more than unbelievers will. Satan will make sure of it.
But Romans 8 offers some encouragement. The chapter outlines believers inheriting the current sufferings of Christ along with the future glory of Christ. In verse 17 Paul says, “if indeed we suffer with Him.” The Greek translation reads “since we suffer with Him.” Suffering will come in all forms for any reason, guaranteed (John 15:18–19). But verse 18 has good news: the Christian’s temporary and light suffering leads to multiplied and everlasting glory.