We live in a broken world where there is a lot of suffering. Suffering is also part of the Christian life (Romans 8:17). If anyone tells you that if you believe in God, He will take away all the problems, sickness, and poverty right now, this teaching is not according to what the Bible tells us.
God has prepared for us a wonderful inheritance where sickness, death, and suffering are things of the past (Revelation 21:1-4), but while living in this world, we can be assured that suffering is part of the package (2 Corinthians 1:5).
Romans 8:28 tells us that “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” – all things that happen in our lives, including sickness, death of loved ones, or loss of property. God uses those things to “conform us to the likeness of His Son” (Romans 8:29) – even those ugly things are used by God for a good purpose, namely to carve out the likeness to His Son in us.
God is with us
Romans 8:36 quotes from Psalm 44. Psalm 44 is a complaint to God that He has rejected His people, that He has sold them as sheep for slaughter. In Romans 8 the complaint is turned around. Suffering does not mean that God has rejected us. This chapter assures us that even in the midst of pain and suffering, God is right there with us. Nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:37-39). Jesus died on the cross and in those dark hours, He was separated from God’s love (Matthew 27:46). He bore our iniquities. Through His suffering we can now be assured of God’s steadfast love for us under all circumstances. Suffering can feel like big, uncontrollable waves that seem to overwhelm and consume us. Psalm 42:7 talks of this experience. But God is right there in the middle of it, right with the person who is hurting, as the Rock who can be trusted. He is a shelter we can flee to at all times (Psalm 18:2; 27:5).
How does God’s presence in suffering make a difference?
How does God’s presence in suffering make a difference? How do we benefit by it if it does not take away the suffering? God designed us to be close to Him. He created us to have a relationship with Him. In the broken world of today, He takes this brokenness and turns it around to work it out for our benefit. He uses the suffering in our lives to draw us to His bosom. In this way He accomplishes the purpose for our lives, namely to have an intimate relationship with him.
How is our response to this situation? We may resent the pain that God allows to come into our lives. We may decide it to be a reason for us to turn away from him. If we do, we miss the good outcome that suffering can bring about. God is able to take the most awful things in our lives, including those things brought on by our own sins! – and use those things to draw us closer to Him, if we let Him.
The glory that will be revealed
All the suffering in this world does not outweigh the glory that will be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). Paul says, it’s not worth comparing to. With other words, the glory is going to be far greater than the suffering will ever be. That may be very hard to believe, but it is the truth that the Bible teaches us, and the truth sets free (John 8:32).