The presence of evil. The question of why we suffer surfaces instantly whenever we are faced with afflictions. This is chiefly so because as human beings, we find it more painful to have no reason for our suffering than the pain we go through at any such moment. As Christians, many of us are pushed
The presence of evil.
The question of why we suffer surfaces instantly whenever we are faced with afflictions. This is chiefly
so because as human beings, we find it more painful to have no reason for our suffering than the pain
we go through at any such moment. As Christians, many of us are pushed to further rationalize our
suffering because of the presumption that there is a guarantee of a perfect life the moment we
acknowledge Christ as Lord. This presumption that is undergirded by our pride and selfishness is
especially augmented when we fall prey to deception through an unhealthy gospel message that
promises complete health, wealth, prosperity and freedom from all life’s pressures, the volume of
which is equivalent to one’s measure of faith. However, no such promise of situational and bodily
perfection exists in the Bible except for the next life. As long as we are in this present world, suffering
and pain are inevitable realities that plague us. Our Lord Jesus Christ makes a profound confirmation
of this when he tells his disciples that in the world we have tribulation (John 16:33). Therefore, as long
as we temporarily tarry in this present world, we are potential candidates for suffering and pain. The
problem of suffering and pain is therefore inextricably linked to the presence of evil in this world.
The purification of faith
Many a time, in a moment of experiencing pain, we are easily lured into thinking that suffering is
restricted to us. Our emotions and feelings at that moment tend to overshadow our rational abilities
stopping us from rightly processing what we are facing. We forget that scripture shows us a number
of saints who have gone before us in the Christian life. In the first epistle of Peter to the exiles
dispersed in Asia Minor, the apostle writes as follows;
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various
trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold perishes though it
is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus
St. Peter 1:6-7).
The Apostle states a unique purpose of our trials. Our trials, just like in the lives of those who have
gone before us, serve to refine our faith. They serve as a positive test meant to make our faith genuine
by producing a lasting firmness (James 1:2-4). This commendable endurance is best exemplified by
Christ while he was tested in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-13). It is therefore clear that the suffering and
pain we face in our lives play the significant functional role of purifying our faith in the Christian walk.
The glorification of God.
From a simple examination of Scripture, we know that all things happen to and for the glory of God.
From Joseph’s plight, to Pharaoh’s hardening, to Job’s fiery trial, to Israel’s wanderings in the desert,
all do happen to the end that God is glorified. Paul implores the Corinthian community of believers to
do all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). If there is ever a reason as to why anything happens to
and through a Christian, it ought to be for the glorification of God. Strange as it may seem, suffering
and pain are not an exception to this pattern. The central definitive event in human history, the cross
of Christ, is quite important in our interpretation of how our suffering glorifies God. Our archetypal
example, Christ Jesus, willingly yet sorrowfully took on the pain of the cross. He despised the shame
(Hebrews 12:2) and endured the sorrow (Isaiah 53:3-4) for the joy and glory that was set before Him.
Christ’s human nature was perfected through His spotless obedience to the Father, the culmination of
which was his suffering of death on the cross for our sin (Hebrews 2:10). It is therefore fit to say that
He is a sympathetic and perfect high priest who experienced our weaknesses and felt the pain of our
infirmities, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). In that way, he was more than able to accomplish the
magnificent work of bringing many sons to glory, a glory which we are to share in, if indeed we also
patiently share in his sufferings (Romans 8:17). On that note, we are called to endure (2 Timothy 2:12)
through the momentary and temporary suffering that afflicts us (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
Unlike the Stoic, Scripture does not understate or play down the magnitude of the pain and the
desperation that comes with suffering when it calls us to rejoice in our trials (James 1:2). In fact, we
ought to grieve the pain and loss (Romans 12:5). But more than that, we ought to rejoice in the eternal
hope of the glory (Romans 8:18) that we shall share in with Christ at His revelation.
In the final analysis, it is quite helpful for us to remember that as we endure suffering, God by His great
mercy, amidst the evil in this present world, purifies our faith for the glory of His name and for our good.
By Solomon Kagimu.
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