Why do trials and suffering happen?

This is a great question everyone wonders about from time to time. There are a few passages of Scripture that can help us shape our understanding of this very difficult question.

  1. Trials and suffering are necessary. (Acts 14:22)
    Yet, once we get to heaven, Revelation 21 tells us that there will be no more tears, no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain. So why must there be trials and suffering now? Let’s first establish that God will only act toward us in loving ways. The enemy of our souls would use our trials and suffering to attempt to prove the opposite. But we take our understanding of who God is from His Word, not from our circumstances. God loves us, and all His ways toward us are loving. So why does God allow us to experience difficulty? Because we need it. Even Jesus, the Son of God, learned obedience from the things He suffered (see Hebrews 5:8). So it’s good to know there is purpose in trials and suffering.

    Now let’s be clear at this point: A good bit of our suffering comes from the enemy, not from God. So it is very important not to confuse the source.
     
  2. Trials and suffering are varied.
    In 2 Corinthians 4:8–9, Paul lists several kinds of suffering: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. All of us have experienced each of these in various ways. And regardless of the source, in every trial both God and Satan are at work. God is working to refine us, train us, and mold us into the image of Jesus. Satan is working to diminish our faith.
     
  3. Trials and suffering prepare us for ministry to others.
    It is a wonderful thing to be comforted by God, but it requires that we turn to God rather than toward other handy things to numb our pain. 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 says that God will comfort us if we turn to Him. And in His comfort, He prepares us to comfort others who suffer in the same ways. Early in our marriage, my wife suffered two miscarriages in one year. We still cry over that pain, and God still comforts us. But we had many friends who had experienced that pain before we did, and they comforted us in our grief. That year would have been almost unbearable without them. And our friends are one of the ways God comforted us.
     
  4. In some very strange ways, trials and suffering prepare us for eternity.
    (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)
    If we are willing to view trials and suffering from a biblical perspective rather than from a selfish standpoint, we can see them as scaffolding. Scaffolding is that temporary structure built next to a building to support the people and materials necessary to make the building into its permanent, beautiful form. But once the building is built, the scaffolding is removed so the building can be enjoyed. That’s the way trials and suffering serve God, and us. They operate as temporary structures to build what is beautiful to God, then they are removed.

    What if we walked through our trials and suffering with the faith that, with this situation, God is giving us a very lavish gift that we would not be able to receive otherwise? If we could see from here to the other side of our trials, we would say “yes” to the promise even knowing what lies in between.

 

This month’s “Ask a Pastor” is written by Marcus Brecheen, Campus Pastor of Gateway North Fort Worth.

Have a difficult question? Email askapastor@gatewaypeople.com.