This morning I was watching the news and seemingly every other story had to do with some kind of suffering. There were interviews of people in Japan that are still suffering from the effects of the earthquakes, suffering in different parts of our country that recently went through severe weather, suffering of those who lost loved ones, suffering of people who are without a job, and on and on. The world we live is a world marked by great suffering. To many, suffering is one of the biggest sticking points for them to believing in God. However, suffering should not cause us to run from God; it should cause us to run to Him.
As we see people suffer we should be reminded of the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. When God created the world, he created it good. There were no sickness, no death, no suffering. In the Garden mankind did not have to worry about earthquakes, tornadoes, disease, or death. Man was in perfect fellowship with a perfect God. However, as mankind rebelled against God, disobeyed God’s command, and ate of the forbidden fruit, not only did sin enter into the created world but so did suffering. Mankind now was not immortal: sin had poisoned his body that eventually would kill him. Sin also began to devastate the rest of creation. In the New Testament the Scriptures tell us that the world now suffers “birth pains” (Matt 24) and that creation is now groaning (Ro 8), longing to be set free from the bondage of decay in this life.
Suffering is the great sign that we and all of creation is broken and in need of reconciliation. Suffering shows us the we need a Savior from this life. When an unbeliever suffers he should not curse God and die; rather, he should fall on his face and plead for the mercy of God to save him from this life, and restore him back into fellowship with his Creator. Suffering points unbelievers to their need for the gospel.
Suffering also has great purposes in the life of a Christian. As mentioned, suffering points unbelievers to their need for the gospel, when believers suffer, the gospel is put on display. In 2 Corinthians, Paul says that he suffers so that God can raise him up (2 Cor 1), and he suffers in order that through his suffering, the life of Christ might be made manifest (2 Cor 4). Suffering further unites us with Christ and draws our heart closer to God.
As you suffer through this life, and as you watch others suffer, be reminded of your need of the gospel. We should not look at suffering and reject God but embrace him. As we suffer we should be reminded of Christ who suffered the wrath of God, which is the punishment for sin on the cross. Through his suffering, death, and resurrection, he is reconciling man and creation back to Himself where one day all the benefits of mankind that were experienced in the Garden will be restored.
If you read this and you are not a Christian I pray that your suffering drives you to Christ as your only hope. If you are a follower of Christ I pray that as you suffer, the life of Christ will be put on display for others to see the glory of the gospel.