Why Do Christians Suffer?

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:3-11

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 11 And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.


“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” [2 Cor. 1:4]

My wife bought a Nissan Rouge a year or so ago. The first time I remember seeing a Nissan Rouge was the day we picked her’s out at the car lot. I had no idea they made such a vehicle. Now that she has one, I see them everyday. They were their all along but I didn’t notice until she bought one.

It is the same way with suffering. It takes a person who has had a broken heart to spot a broken heart. Our heavenly Father is a God of tender mercy. Showing mercy is His default setting–He loves to show mercy and you and I have experienced His mercy as a precious gift but we do not know how to show it or share it until we have suffered. Once we suffer, we become sympathetic with others that suffer: we are equipped to give them the same quality of comfort that the LORD has given us.

This is why your ministry will come from your pain and failure more than from you success. It is always easier to relate to others when we understand what they are going through.


When ‘they’ are troubled, ‘we’ will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. [2 Cor. 1:4]

I am not going to say I completely understand it but I have experienced it many times and I know it is true: when you come along side a family and suffer with them through a crisis; it forges a bond that will never be broken. When we came to our present church 27 years ago, within a span of three years, we experience the heartbreak of losing a little 8 year boy to Cystic Fibrosis. It was tough: I have no words to describe it. The church was small at the time which meant I had more time. In those last few weeks and days, I practically lived with this family [Children’s Hospital in Birmingham]. I spent night laying in the floor of the waiting room. I think I was with them for the last two or three days. I felt helpless. I was helpless. The only thing I could do was be there as a representative of Christ, just a visible manifestation of HIS divine presence. I said very little because I didn’t know what to say. It broke our hearts when the Heavenly Father took him. There were only two comforts that I can remember, we knew he was in better hands [Jesus] and we knew he would not suffer anymore. Other than these two things, there was a lot of pain and grief. This child’s father became one of my best friends, loyal as bull dog and as courageous as a lion. I told my children last week: Kids, your daddy would never have been able to stay in Danville all these years had it not been of Kenneth Narrell. Recently, I was sick and unable to function, the mother of the above child called to check on me every day. Kenneth was promoted in 2009. My family and his family have endured at least 4 critical storms together and it has forged a bond that I don’t think gossip can break. I’m not plying for your sympathy but I will tell you straight up: most folks are not going to give a preacher the benefit of the doubt but his family is an exception. What forged this unbreakable bond? Suffering.


“Even when we are weighed down with troubles…” [v.6] We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure. [v.8]

Chuck Swindoll says for every 49 that can handle failure, there is only one who can handle success. I concur! Failure, suffering has a way of bringing us down to earth. The word picture in the Greek is of a beast of burden who is crushed beneath the load. Sometimes we get so loaded with the cares of this world, anxieties, stress, burdens, even guilt–we are literally crushed by the weight. SUFFERING crushes us like the grapes in a wine press. It brings us to the end of our resources and to our knees where we cry out for God’s help. We never pray more earnestly than when we suffer.


“We stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God.” [v.9]

Following the same theme discussed above, when suffering crushes us, it separates us from the chaff, from the alloys, the impurities, the worthless. Suffering is like the refiners fire, it purges out the dross. We all know that we are to live dead to self and alive to Christ but knowing and doing are two different things. Suffering can achieve in our lives what nothing else can do. It is a vital part of our sanctification. In order for Jack to decrease and Jesus increase [in my life], suffering is a necessity. I don’t enjoy suffering, I don’t pray for it to come but I do realize that God in His GRACE uses it to burn out the dross.


 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. [v.10]

I don’t want to be redundant, but suffering has a drawing power. Prosperity can lead us to drift away from Christ whereas suffering can draw us near. A young child got a new sail boat and carried it to the city part where there was a lake. He put his boat in the water but the wind quickly carried his boat beyond reach. He went to get the help of a teenager standing near by: the teenage picked up a few large rocks and started to through them in the direction of the boat: the little fellow began to beg…”No, no, no, I don’t want you to sink my boat, I want to get it back.” The kid brushed him aside and said, “You have to trust me.” With that he threw one of the large rocks a few few beyond the boat and the waves from the rock began bringing the boat to shore. After repeating this process several times, the little boy was able to reach and get his boat.

The adversity that we think is going to sink us actually brings us closer to Christ.


The Israelite had to suffer bondage and oppression before they had a desire to leave Egypt. A farmer planned to burn a huge brush pile but when he went to burn, he discovered a birds nest in the rotten brush. He carefully moved the nest to another bush and then waited to see what would happen. When he got back to the brush pile a day or two later, the bird had built a new nest in the brush pile. So he pondered: she will not let me move her nest so how am I going to get her to move? Finally, he lined her nest with thorns and she found a new location.

We would get content with life here if there was no suffering. God puts a few thorns in our nest to give us a longing to live elsewhere. The older you get, the more you feel the thorns.


Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety. [v.11]

I have been in the ministry for 48 years and I have never meet a truly thankful person who had not suffered a great deal. The generations below us are spoiled and ungrateful. They want, want, want and are never satisfied with what they get…this is because they have not suffered. You cannot learn gratitude apart from suffering and you can never enjoy grace until you have gratitude. {Corrie ten Boom}




A Pain On Every Pew

Job 2:8-1, NLT

Job scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10 But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong.


One of the great mysteries in life is pain, why so much pain and heartache. Physical pain can be severe, I’ve had two kidney stones and had several gall bladder attacks before and after its removal. I suffered some but my pain was temporary and I always had hope of recovery. Some people hurt every single day. We all have friends that are suffering from cancer, ALS, MS, or some other dreaded disease. I’ve been to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham many times and it is always full even at Christmas. Every where you look there is pain and heart ache. Older people who suffer from loneliness, a spouse that has been rejected, children that are being neglected. Just a week or two ago, a couple came to bible study with a broken heart because their daughter is probably going to have to undergo a very high risk surgery. Sick children, rebellious children, children on drugs, children in prison, children that don’t get along with the other children; practically every family in our congregation is dealing with some form of emotional pain. Why so much pain? We know that the most obvious answer is that we live in a fallen world and our parents rebellion in the garden of Eden set off a chain reaction of painful consequences that always follow sin. However, there are some other reasons that might be a source of encouragement to you if you are suffering.  In his book, NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE THROUGH PRAYER, Charles Allen gives us three possible reason why we have so much pain.

  1. EVERY POSSIBLE BLESSING IS ALSO A POSSIBLE PAIN AND VICE-VERSA: EVERY PAIN CAN BECOME A BLESSING. Dr. Allen gave his children roller skates. Eventually, his kids found great pleasure in the skates but that was after they had fallen several times and had the bumps and bruises to prove it. My grandson played high school football and he loved it. He even loved practice. I played in high school but I did not love practice. He got a lot of pleasure from playing football but when you play football there is always the risk of injury. If you avoid the risk, you also forfeit the pleasure of playing. We gave all our kids a car when they got old enough to drive. We did not give them a new car but it was a car. There is a risk to giving a kid a car. A parent has to decide: do I want to keep running a taxi service or buy this child a car? They want the car because there is great pleasure in going where you want when you want. Kids want cars for the same reasons we senior adults want to keep ours. We love our independence: to go when and where we want to go. But when you give them the car, there are risk and there will be some pain. Our youngest daughter had three wrecks in a year and two in two weeks. Our insurance company dropped her. Had my friend not been the president of the company, we would not have gotten her reinstated. There was pleasure in them having a car but it was costly and at times painfully costly. Hey, we were fortunate: some parents have lost their kids in automobile wrecks. Do people stop driving when a love one is killed in a wreck? No, we accept the risk, it is a part of life. We prefer to take the risk as opposed to walking everywhere we go. We have to face reality: if we have cars, we will have wrecks, if we have planes, we will have crashes. Not even riding a horse is safe; a man was killed last week riding a horse near a highway. The only safe thing to do is stay at home and order everything you need on-line and let UPS or FED-X bring it to you. It is either that are get some blisters on your feet but that can be painful also. There are many wonderful things that bring us great pleasure but all of them involve risk and possible pain, even heart-break. Take erotic love for example: romantic love drives TV programs, movies, books sales and only the LORD know what else. I bet that 90% of all women read romance novels. I have often wondered why they want to read about romance but don’t have any interest in romancing with their husband. My mother kept one of those old romance novels in her hands for 20 years. There is a thrill to falling in love that is unmatched by anything we humans know and it can happen at any age. Teenagers fall in love and they are pitiful. As my mother-in-law use to say, “They are as pitiful as a sick kitten on a hot rock”. Old folks can fall in love. Many years ago I bumped into a woman who was  61 and she looked like she had been eating bananas side ways: she was grinning from ear to ear. I think she had lip stick on both ears. I said, “What on earth is wrong with you?” She said, “Nothing is wrong with me, I am in love and I feel like I am 16 years old.” I did not have the courage to tell her that she was confused and had inverted the numbers but I knew she was telling the truth, love can make you feel very young.  I have seen old folks in nursing homes fall in love and park their wheel chairs side by side and hold hands all day long. Falling in love is a wonderful thing but there are risk. A lot of people have been hurt by falling in love with someone who didn’t love them back or faithfully. There are risk when it comes to falling in love. Do we abandon love because we have been hurt? Some do and become bitter for life but most of us admit that its worth the risk. One other example: who gave us the ability to dream and to aspire? Wouldn’t you agree that God gave us this unique ability. Have all your dreams come true? Have some of your dreams been shattered, dashed to pieces? I am a dreamer and will always be I suppose but most of my dreams have been shattered and a some became nightmares. I cannot quit dreaming simply because I have suffered disappointment. Where there is any hope of pleasure there has to be some risk of pain. Parents have pleasure in the conception, birth and rearing of a child but they also have some pain. You can’t have one without the other.
  2. PAIN IS THE PRICE WE PAY FOR BELONGING TO THE FAMILY [Adam’s family]. Adam and Eve transgressed: they disobeyed the direct command of God and they suffered consequences, their children suffered consequences, and their children, etc. right on down to our children. Why are we insecure? Why do we feel shame and guilt? Why do we point the finger of blame at others? The answers are in Genesis 3, its all in the family. We have to admit sin brings suffering both here and hereafter and it is no respecter of persons. Who suffers most in our present culture? The innocent unborn! Child abuse in America is at an all time high and I can tell you why, DRUGS! Children go to school hungry because their parents are strung out of drugs. Their parents us every nickel they can get their hands on to buy their next fix. This is not something that happens in big cities alone, it is happening in rural America: it is happening in small places like Danville, Alabama. A CAUTION FLAG: don’t take the wrong approach and develop a bad attitude: all people suffer but some suffer more than others. This is a mystery but it is a fact of life. The worse thing you can do is be like Job’s wife or Naomi. Feeling sorry for yourself is not going to help. I’ve heard people say and so have you, “I don’t understand why God let this happen to me.” We say things like this because we don’t think that we deserve what we are getting. Job was convinced the he was not getting justice and in reality, he was not. Remember the words of Scar, “Life is not fair.” Life is not fair because we live in community. We are one big family. I would prefer that we were one big happy family but we are one family. We suffer because of the dumb things others do but we also enjoy countless pleasures and benefits because of the intelligent things others do. Adam and Eve did not kill Abel, Cain killed him but Adam and Eve suffered for Cain’s foolish mistake and we been suffering since. Achan’s children did not do a thing but they were caught up in the vortex of their father’s sinful greed. It’s the same with kids today whose parents are on drugs: the kids are innocent but they are suffering none the less. Job questioned God: he could not understand what was happening but he did understand that we must take the bad with the good. Perhaps you did not deserve to suffer in some specific way but asks yourself this question, “What have I done to deserve being born in America?” Yes, we suffer at the hands of others but we also prosper at the hands of others. If I had the world to myself, there would be no automobiles, jet planes, TV, I-Pads, computers, satellites, space stations and so much more.  I’m not sure we would have fire if I were the greatest intellect alive. So as the wise man Job said, “We must take the bad with the good,” they come in the same package, it is called life.
  3. GOD SEES OUR PAIN; HE KNOWS ALL ABOUT OUR SUFFERING AND HE CARES. The LORD said to Moses in Exodus 3… “I have seen the troubles my people have suffered in Egypt, and I have heard their cries when the Egyptians hurt them. I know about their pain.” I also love Psalm 34…The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help. 16 But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil; he will erase their memory from the earth. 17 The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. 18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Jesus did allow Lazarus to get sick and die; He allowed Mary and Martha to suffer grief and anguish. He was not playing games with them, he allows these things to happen because He had a higher purpose. He wanted to reveal a part of His nature and power that they did not know. They believed He was healer but He was much more, He was the RESURRECTION and the LIFE. They thought the Resurrection was a day but He revealed in mighty power that it is a person, Himself. Our heavenly Father deals with pain in different ways: [1] He uses pain to transform us. Pain can change your mind about a lot of things. It can be very humbling and it definitely makes us self-conscious.  Paul had some type of infirmity that was a constant source of pain: he says in 2 Corinthians 12..So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. He asks God three times to take it away but God did not remove the pain: he told Paul that he was using the pain to keep him from exalting himself. God did not remove Paul’s pain but He did give him grace to endure it. [2] Sometimes God works a miracle and takes the pain away. Sometimes he works through people or medicine to take pain away. When I was a little child, polio was an epidemic and then Dr. Jonas E. Salk came up with a vaccine. Polio is almost nonexistent today. [3] One thing is certain, He is always with us during our pain. While in Corinth, the Apostle Paul became discouraged. The Jews had rejected him and he shook the dust off of his clothes and left the synagogue and vowed never to go back. I assume he was afraid and discouraged because of what the LORD says to him…One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent!  For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” I am also reminded of Jesus last words to his disciples…”Lo, I am with you even until the end of the age.” Then there are the comforting words in Hebrews 13…I will never leave you; I will never run away from you.” A little girl got a cut just over her eye. The doctor did not deaden it completely because it was so close to her eye. He told her she would feel some pain. The doctor said,  “There is a risk if I deaden it completely, do you think you can handle the pain?” She said, “I can if you let my father hold my hand.” He said, “No, problem, I think that is an excellent idea.” The little girls sat their while the doctor did five stitches and she did not flinch but she her hand was firmly clasp inside her father hand. The father didn’t stop the pain but his presence made it easier for her to bear. The same is true with emotional pain. Dr. Adrian Rogers told a story that really found a home in my heart. It is the story of the father, mother and daughter. The mother came down with cancer and after a long battle, she went home to be with Jesus. The father and daughter were devastated, absolutely grief-stricken. For days during her sickness and through the interment, they were surrounded by family and friends but when all the friends were gone, it was just Dad and daughter in a big lonely house. When it came time for bed, dad tucked his daughter in and kissed her good night. Before he could get to the door, she said, “Daddy, could I sleep with you tonight?” “Sure honey, I would be delighted, come on with me,” said dad. They got into bed and dad cut off the lights and it was dark, very dark. After some silence, this precious little broken-hearted child said, “Daddy” and he said, “What is it baby?” She said, “Daddy, this is the darkness night of my life.” The dad swallowed and mustered the strength to respond, “It is the darkness night of my life too,” he said. She rolled over on her side so as to face the dad she couldn’t see but she could hear, “Daddy, is your face on my face?” Daddy rolled to his side and said, “Yes honey, my face is on your face.” “Daddy” she said, “Can you love me through the darkness?” That broke is broken heart, “Yes darling, I can surely love through the darkness,” and he reaches over and kisses her on the forehead one more time. She lay their facing her dad, feeling the presence of his breath until she fell asleep. Then he crawled out of bed, got on his knees and prayed the same prayer as his daughter, “Father, is your face on my face? Can you love me through the darkness? With that he felt the calming assurance and the presence of the Father and he too was able to climb back in bed and fall asleep.