Christian Suffering Can Make You Selfish. This Is Why

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.

I have written extensively about my struggles here and here. My family faced a ghoulish financial prospect. And I had nothing in savings and zero job prospects.

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.

Why?

4 ways suffering can make you selfish

Christian 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.

  1. I have sent more than 1,000 applications and only received a call for interview twice.
  2. A dozen times in two months, my family had nothing. No food and no money.
  3. My son is having a tough time adjusting to new environments and it’s affecting his behavior.
  4. I have been working as an adjunct faculty and I haven’t received my salary.
  5. 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:

  • Prayer
  • Fasting
  • Singing
  • Reading the Bible
  • Community

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.

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10 Comments

  1. Sorry you are suffering…do hope that light is soon seen and problem is resolved…I do love the reminder that suffering is part of the “walk” of all people…good and bad. It is how we react and respond to it that makes it either worthy of our time or a waste of our time. Keep us in the loop about the job search.

    Just a point you may have missed…and oops: spelling error…it is “throw” into the ocean not “through”…
    Hugs and prayers…

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      1. Edmond, the fact that you are trying to behave in a Christ-centered manner and more concerned about that than finding a job is a very good thing. God will reward you.

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  2. I have a confession. Due to my selfish response to some problems I have been suffering from I have neglected to pray for you and many other believers.
    If God gave me only salvation in the next life and allowed me a life of sickness, poverty, and loneliness here on earth, I would still have no right to complain. He would be giving me far better things than I deserve. Thank you for this post, Edmond!

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    1. Thank you for the prayers. I remember talking to someone about what my family was going through. I couldn’t help but notice a sense of entitlement in my tone. The pride and arrogance shocked me. What was happening to me? But they were some people who kept pouring themselves in my life. Their act of grace humbled and helped me put my eyes on Christ. It’s hard but I’m grateful for their unsolicited but gracious advice.

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  3. Some if mine admittedly came from thinking a dream God gave me was just a nightmare, my own ignorance of the fire meaning behind some of my husband’s odd words, a warning I didn’t know how to and didn’t pour into asking God to help me understand, and being too “kind” in the face of another’s outright sin. As they say, love is not only blind, but sometimes it’s downright stupid. I’ll admit to being very naive BUT God has relentlessly blessed me despite myself. And Christians telling me to “Just get over it” didn’t help but actually hurt. No one has the right to tell you that toxic advice unless they have walked your road. I pray God pours out His grace and miracle provision straight from His heart to you and your family.

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      1. “Tough love” from me with some early serious consequences would have been more helpfully loving, as he might have seen the actual financial cost of divorce that might have made him think twice. ” Fear of man is a snare” and ” God alone is to be feared” and ” Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, man’s heart is given over fully to do evil” would have helped me avoid a lot of pain and mistakes, and if my honesty can help someone else, praise God!

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  4. My brother! Thank you for this firm word so many of us need to hear or be reminded of.

    I’m not going to deny my having been angry with God in the past for the acute suffering in my life. I think it’s unreasonable to ask humans not to act human–there is nothing worse than pretense in faith. (Look at the expressions of David throughout the Psalms.) Having said that, you are absolutely correct; God is Sovereign God and owes us nothing.

    That He has even allowed me to recognize Him is a gift. That he has redeemed me, committed to my sanctification and transformation AND prepared a place for me in His eternal presence trumps ANYTHING I could suffer in this life.

    Suffering comes in many packages and I think it is important to validate it, both in ourselves and also in each other. I see this aspect of God’s character displayed when he saw the suffering of Hagar. The encounter reveals God as the one who hears and the one who sees. He validated her suffering. BUT then we move on to the higher truth…submission. “Return to your mistress” (Her place of suffering place, her hard life.)

    We re-turn our hearts to submission with humility. In that posture the blessing comes, the promises fulfilled.

    I am convinced that the humility and hope we exhibit in the midst of our suffering is a weighty testimony, even more so than miraculous healing. And it happens that our praise in the midst of our suffering is the purest form of worship–a sacrifice that pleases God.

    I guess I went on a bit here!! I must have needed it more than anyone else!

    Praying for you my brother, that your faith remain strong and your hope firm. May the favor of God be the reward of faithfulness.

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  5. Thank God I’m now finding it easy commenting on your didactically eyes opening posts.
    There’s an acute dearth of scriptural information and the inevitable knowledge. Churches are run by evangelists and or prophets instead of pastors, grounded in the logos. Many Christians are, unfortunately, a groping lot when it comes to scriptural exegesis and comments. The Book of Job is a classical example. Like my Nigerian people will say, “My eye don see”, and I’m still struggling to make ends meet. When my son told me I could get a free website from WordPress, I told myself, “I’ve got myself a job!” I can’t sit idle. I’ve been blogging like no-man’s-land.
    An unregenerate man is headed for eternal hell; his regeneration (in Christ Jesus) makes him do a volte-face entry into eternal celestial bliss, where he’ll be seated right there, in the throneroom of Jehovah, making him God, which Lucifer had always coveted with no success. So, while still on terra firma, don’t expect the Devil, as the officially recognized, ‘god of this world’ not to make life unbearable (in fact he’ll be stupider than I know he is if he doesn’t).
    “For I know that my redeemer liveth,…” [Job 19:25] is what the Christian under trials must remember, and constantly too. The child of Jesus must also know what Job renewed his spiritual strength with i.e. “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” [Job 23:10]. Hallelujah! One of the reasons we’ll find it difficult getting this truth across to the others is simply because we’re not on the same page of F-A-I-T-H. God will certainly try our faith in Him. Does He have to try us before He comes to know? Definitely not! He puts us to the trial for our own benefit. The Lord makes Himself available at trying times so that we’ll run to Him for victory and this enables us to see God Almighty coming to our level to make us come forth as gold. Amen! Praise the Lord, Edmond! His goodness and mercy will continually follow you. Mercy to forgive wrong decisions and goodness to supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
    I know you’ll always be found in your ambassadorial post for Jesus.

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