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Romans 8:18 and 1Pet chapter 4 seem to imply Christians should rejoice in our suffering because of the sympathy towards the suffering of Jesus, and some how that is related to Glory. When Christians suffer how is that immediately glorious?

The suffering I have experienced does not compare to what you have described. The problem of pain is one that requires much more than a glib response.

Indeed, the answer is probably the content of a book -- one I may get around to in time. Having said this, let me suggest a few categories and Scriptures (which will probably become chapters in time to come) to which you may wish to direct your thoughts. I will also link sermons where these are available.

FIRST, ALL SUFFERING IS ULTIMATELY THE RESULT OF SIN, FROM WHICH WILL NOT BE DELIVERED UNTIL OUR LORD RETURNS (Genesis 3; Romans 8:18-25; Revelation 21 and 22).

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SECOND, EVERY INSTANCE OF SUFFERING IN OUR LIVES IS NOT NECESSARILY THE DIRECT RESULT OF OUR SIN. We see this especially in the case of the man born blind in John 9, and in the case of Job (Job 1 and 2).

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THIRD, GOD HAS PURPOSES FOR OUR SUFFERING THAT MAY NOT BE KNOWN TO US IN THIS LIFE, BUT ONLY IN ETERNITY.

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FOURTH, WHEN VIEWED IN THE LIGHT OF ETERNITY OUR SUFFERING SEEMS BEARABLE.

See Isaiah 25:8; 2 Corinthians 4:16--5:10.

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FIFTH, SUFFERING MAY DRAW US NEAR TO GOD, WHILE SUCCESS AND EASE MAY DO THE OPPOSITE. We see this in Psalm 73.

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SIXTH, WHEN GOD USES SUFFERING FOR HIS GLORY AND OUR GOOD (Romans 8:28) HE TURNS THE CURSE INTO THE CURE. God turned the curse (the result of sin) to the cure. Death was the penalty prescribed for sin (Genesis 2:17); God used death -- the death of Jesus -- to free us from sin and from death, because Jesus died on our behalf (Romans 5-8). For Eve, a consequence of her sin was pain, pain in childbirth; but this pain in childbirth was turned to joy because it would be through her child that salvation would ultimately come (Genesis 3:15).

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SEVENTH, NO ONE HAS EVER SUFFERED MORE THAN GOD'S SON, IN BRINGING ABOUT THE ONLY MEANS OF OUR SALVATION. See Isaiah 52:13--53:12; 58-61; 1 Peter 1, 2, 3.

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EIGHTH, WHEN CHRISTIANS SUFFER FOR BEING RIGHTEOUS THEY ENTER INTO A NEW LEVEL OF INTIMACY WITH CHRIST, WHO SUFFERED FOR US. See Philippians 3:10; Psalm 73.

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NINTH, THE SUFFERING OF OTHERS IS THE CHRISTIAN'S OPPORTUNITY TO MINISTER TO THEM IN THE NAME OF JESUS. Jesus came to minister to those who were suffering (Luke 4:16-19; Isaiah 61:1-2; Matthew 5:3-4; Matthew 25:31-40; Acts 2:44-45; 6:1-6; 11:27-30; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; James 1:27).

What troubles me most, is hearing about this godly woman you wrote about who is in such great need, is not being cared for by the church. We are to minister to the suffering just as Jesus did. I would hope that she is a part of a church and that this church would reach out to her, ministering to her physical needs, as well as to her spiritual needs. That is the clear teaching of God's Word, and it is to the same of the church not to obey in this regard.

You ask why God makes some things so clear, while others are a mystery? One reason is that God is giving us an opportunity to grow in faith. Remember that faith that is "seen" (physically seen, but also mentally grasped) is not really faith at all. True faith is believing in God -- on the basis of His Word -- when we don't "see" it. Look at Romans 8:24-25 (I know the word is "hope" here, and not "faith," but they are closely connected); Hebrews 11:1-6ff.; 1 Peter 1:6-9; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

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One final word. In the Book of Job this godly saint has finally had his fill of suffering. He puts his hands on his hips (so to speak) and tells God he has a lot of explaining to do (Job 29-31). God's answer to Job comes in chapters 38-41. In effect, God says to Job, "Who do you think you are, Job? Are you so wise that you helped Me create this world? Could you have done better than I have done?" At this, Job becomes silent (so far as his complaining goes) and submits to the sovereign, all-knowing, caring, all-powerful God (chapter 42, verses 1-6).

As Nebuchadnezzar put it (after being humbled):

34 But at the end of the appointed time I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up toward heaven, and my sanity returned to me. I extolled the Most High, and I praised and glorified the one who lives forever. For his authority is an everlasting authority, and his kingdom extends from one generation to the next. 35 All the inhabitants of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he wishes with the army of heaven and with those who inhabit the earth.

No one slaps his hand and says to him, 'What have you done?' 36 At that time my sanity returned to me. I was restored to the honor of my kingdom, and my splendor returned to me. My ministers and my nobles were seeking me out, and I was reinstated over my kingdom. I became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, for all his deeds are right and his ways are just. He is able to bring down those who live in pride (Daniel 4:34-37, NET).


Related Topics: Suffering, Trials, Persecution