What about Suffering?
There are many types of suffering in the world. During this season of natural disasters in North America, many are wondering what all this suffering and pain could mean. They wonder, “Where is God?”
Pain is a universal condition. The Bible has a lot to say about suffering and pain. I’ve identified 12 different types of suffering that show up in the Bible and in our lives.
12-Types of suffering or affliction:
- Fallen World Suffering – This includes things like natural disasters, human illness, and death.
- Consequence Suffering – This is the natural result of bad decisions, mistakes, and sin.
- Demonic Suffering – This is the direct work of our enemy tormenting, possessing, or oppressing people.
- Victim Suffering – This is the result of one persons sin against another and includes things like rape, human trafficking, abuse, and neglect.
- Community Suffering – This is individual suffering that is a result of the suffering of a community and includes things like war, epidemics, and corruption.
- Discipline Suffering – This is suffering that happens to correct or punish for a mistake or sin that didn’t have a natural consequence or whose natural consequence was avoided because of the discipline.
- Persecution Suffering – This is the kind of suffering that Christians experience for just being Christian and includes martyrdom.
- Empathy Suffering – This is the kind of suffering we experience because someone else we love or care for is in pain.
- Purpose of God Suffering – This is the kind of suffering given by God for his purposes. Jesus crucifixion is the greatest example.
- Preventative Suffering – This is suffering that prevents greater suffering. An example is the person who had a relentless sore throat that took them to the doctor only to find out they had a tumor or heart problem.
- Mysterious Suffering – This is the kind of suffering that’s cause is unknown.
- Apocalyptic Suffering – This is the kind of suffering sent by God as judgment on the world. It is described in the end times passages of the Bible.
Clearly, there are a lot of ways or types of suffering. You may be able to identify more.
But why? That’s the great question. “Why is there suffering and pain.”
Some ask, “If God is all loving and all powerful, why doesn’t he stop suffering and pain?” It’s a good question, that must be considered.
I believe that the best approach to the problem of pain is to ask the opposite. What is pain and suffering if there is no God?
Let me argue that if there is no God, then suffering, pain, and disappointment are all just illusions. If humans are nothing more than conscious star dust (molecules of elements bumping into each other) then what does it matter if there is pain and suffering?
- Who cares if one blob of star dust murders another one?
- Who cares if 300 bags of space matter die in an earthquake or hurricane?
- Who cares if millions of women and children are exploited and abused through human trafficking?
- If there is no God, why care?
The reality is: our experience of pain and suffering proves that we are more than just accidents of evolution. Our moral outrage against racism, human trafficking, war, and abuse, proves that a moral creator has endowed us with the ability to discern and experience great pain – and – great joy, agonizing suffering – and – the comfort of peace.
Without God things like beauty, love, happiness, and admiration are all just empty sentiment. Without God things like hate, racism, rape, and assault are just a preference or dislike. They have no value, they are just illusions of our evolved mind, they are meaningless.
Therefore, I argue, that there is a God, that suffering is the absence of his goodness and a departure from his original plan. I argue that suffering and pain prove his existence rather than challenge it.
The reason we know about evil is because there is good to compare it to. The reason we know darkness is because there is light. The reason we know pain is because there is perfection. The reason we know ugly suffering, is because we know the beauty of goodness.
The GOOD NEWS is that God knows our pain. He understands our suffering. Jesus has been tempted in every way that we have, but is without sin. Jesus experienced abandonment, natural disaster, hate, abuse, and agonizing suffering. He entered our pain and has made a way out. I encourage you to turn to him. Come to Jesus! Cry out to God and he will lift you up.
Further Reading: Romans 8:18-39 | Ephesians 3:1-13 | Hebrews 4:14-16