The main problem with Christian suffering isn’t the unceremonious pain or crippling doubt. But the problem with suffering is that it can make you selfish. Believe me, there’s nothing more painful like enduring a narcissistic, self-centered and self-righteous Christian.
You probably know that I have been hunting for a job like a hungry lion in a drought-ravaged veldt. OK, I’m living in a country hit by drought but I’m not a lion. I’m just a husband, a father and a brother who has to take care of his family, no matter what.
Soon, my grunts came instead of bread. And my groaning poured out like a tropical thunderstorm. I had no rest. Trouble came.
For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes.
Job 3:25-26 ESV
Yes, I believe Jesus Christ is the Lord. He died for my sins on the Cross. I’m a Christian suffering.
4 ways suffering can make you selfish
Today, I am on my way to Switzerland. I have been called for an on-site job interview. But that is not the whole story.
- I have sent more than 1,000 applications and only received a call for interview twice.
- A dozen times in two months, my family had nothing. No food and no money.
- My son is having a tough time adjusting to new environments and it’s affecting his behavior.
- I have been working as an adjunct faculty and I haven’t received my salary.
- And yesterday, I missed the flight to Switzerland.
But this is only five of the dozens of problems my family has faced since we left the US on the fourth of July. And these problems gave my wife and I an opportunity to be selfish.
How did these problems invite selfishness?
1. Wrong concept of Christianity
Sometimes, we think being a Christian offers diplomatic immunity to suffering. Wrong. It’s an invitation to a higher level of Christian suffering. Holding on to an erroneous belief, might make you think God owes you his salvation or redemption. He doesn’t, he offers it to you as a free gift.
2. A community of believers that has a wrong concept of God
I heard a fellow believer saying my family was suffering because we were not in God’s will. He went on to say that going to America was running away from God. I wanted to defend my family and I wanted to prove to him I knew the Bible more than him. I wanted be a narcissistic, self-righteous and selfish Christian.
3. More faith in what you need than in God
Suffering has a tendency of making you believe in what you need than in God. I wanted a job and in the end I got more attached to what I needed than who I needed. So, when I didn’t get what I needed I became overly critical and blamed everyone around me.
4. Poor understanding of sin
All suffering is indirectly caused by sin. But sometimes suffering is a result of a sinful lifestyle. The greatest tragedy in the 21st century is believers tend to redefine sin so that they can be considered loving and welcoming. This doesn’t help the person suffering because of sin. It’s like tying a millstone on their neck and throw them in the ocean while telling them with a smile that you are helping them to take a bath.
5 tough questions that trouble a suffering
A few years ago, a Christian leader whose ministry I followed publicly declared he was leaving the faith. He had a simple question, “God, since you’re all powerful, why are you failing to heal my daughter who has cancer?” This innocent question drove him to atheism.
Besides making you selfish, Christian suffering can make you skeptical. Questions drown your hurting mind. And if unanswered or wrongly answered, these innocent questions may transform into doubt.
Here are some of the most common questions Christians suffering have.
1. Why does God allow Christians to suffer?
This question is the Christian version of the problem of evil. “If God is all-powerful, all-knowing and perfectly good, why does he let so many bad things happen?” God may allow suffering in your life because he’s sovereign and has an eternal purpose. He promised to restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish Christians in suffering (1 Peter 5:10). Suffering is an opportunity for you to experience the depth, breadth and height of God’s unfathomable love.
However, it’s grossly misleading to blame God for all the suffering Christians endure. David invited death in his kingdom through adultery and murder. Sometimes, our foolish decisions invites great pain and suffering. Yet, Christ’s grace rescues us in our own mess.
2. Why do good people suffer?
Good people suffer. And bad people suffer too. But we’ll quickly dismiss the suffering of bad people. Why? Because bad people deserve to suffer. In reality, only Christ is good and he suffered. A lot.
Without Christ, we all deserve to suffer. We’re a wicked generation, crooked in every way and quick to scheme evil. Yet, God in his abundant mercy, he chose not to rain burning sulfur on us. But he instead sent his only begotten son to die for our sins.
3. What is the purpose of suffering?
There’s an inherent problem with trying to ascribe purpose to all suffering. Sometimes, suffering is a mystery with no clear purpose in sight. The true purpose of suffering is not found in the pain but in the person of Jesus Christ.
Suffering right produces endurance, steadfastness, character and hope (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4). When you suffer, God pours his love in your heart through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a guarantee of our inheritance in Christ. You can only find hope in suffering when God’s love grants you an eternal perspective of your suffering.
4. How do Christians respond to suffering?
They’re several biblical ways Christians may respond to suffering. The best include:
- Reading the Bible
A proper response to suffering is not confined to the method you use. It’s defined by the attitude of your heart and how you view God in all this. A better place to start is confessing that this God is gracious, merciful, just and righteous.
5. What does the Bible say about suffering?
The Bible says a lot of things about a whole lot of types of suffering. The book of Exodus presence suffering as a result of disobedience. In Job, we see an innocent man suffering following a discussion between God and Satan.
The best summary of what the Bible say about suffering can be found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11. And here are the three main things we can learn.
Suffering can be a testimony to others of Christ’s comfort to us. As a result, we can learn to comfort others.
Suffering exposes our weaknesses and concealed inadequacies. This in turn helps us to seek his grace and sufficiency.
Suffering awakens us to the goodness of God and his relentless love. In the end, our hearts are filled with thanks and awe.