Articles – Suffering



“Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).  It is the fate of humanity to suffer.  In various way, in various forms, at different times—we all suffer.  It seems that some suffer more than others.  Job is an example of someone who suffered greatly.  We sometimes say about someone we know:  “It just seems like they can’t catch a break.”  We know what that means; it means that some people have an inordinate amount of trial and tribulation in their lives.  How are we to react when we hear the words “cancer,” “car wreak,” “plane crash,” “operation,” “treatments,” “or, no hope?”

Suffering can (should) cause us to think about the fact that we will die—if not today then someday.  “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).  The wise man said that finally we “all go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust” (Eccl. 3:20).  Suffering can cause us to evaluate our lives; are we ready to die and meet the Lord?  The Apostle Paul was ready.  For him, it was “far better” to depart; such departure meant he would be with the Lord (Phil. 1:21).  If you knew because of human suffering that your time to depart was getting closer, would you not begin to think about making peace with that fact?  And are you at peace with God?

Suffering can cause us to experience the power and presence of God in a more meaningful and deeper way than before.  When Job was suffering, he thought often about God.  It is not that Job received all the answers he desired to his many questions.  It was, though, an opportunity to focus on the bigger picture of life.  Admittedly, when you are in pain it is not always easy to look beyond the present into the future.  But can we not find peace and solace in the fact that we know God? “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psa. 16:11).  This joy is deep seated; all is well in your relationship with God.

Suffering can help us realize our need for others.  The Hebrew Christians were encouraged to remember their brethren who were in adverse circumstances (Heb. 13:3).  Paul was concerned about Epaphroditus, who was sick “almost unto death” (Phil. 1:27).  Christians do not (should not) live their lives in isolation from each other.  “One another” Christianity  has a very practical benefit for all in the body of Christ.

Finally, in the midst of suffering we can turn to God in prayer.  When you are having trouble, there are many Christians who are praying for you.  Prayer is powerful.  Prayer is doing something.  Prayer takes you and your needs before God’s throne.  We pray in recognition of God’s authority.  “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (Jn. 14:14).  When praying let us say:  “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39).  –  Randy Harshbarger


 Does God play some role or any role in human suffering?  If God is good, then why does He allow suffering? This is a common objection to God—many turn away from faith in God because of the presence of human suffering in the world.  When you are asked about such matters, what do you say?  Who gets the blame?  Satan?  Human beings?  If God did not create evil, where did it come from?

After God created the heavens and the earth, He said the creation was “very good” (Gen. 1:1, 27, 31).  God’s world was without sin or suffering.  The first human beings were created in the divine image.  As such Adam and Eve had the capacity to love, to understand morality, and were responsible as free moral beings to act in ways consistent with their free-will.  Part of free will, though, involves the possibility of rejection.  If you can choose to do what is right, you can choose to do what is wrong.  To lovingly accept God’s rule was freedom; to reject God’s rule, as Adam and Eve did, was an act of freedom, too.  Why did God create Adam and Eve and give them the ability to rebel?  While the Bible does not give an explicit answer, it seems that God’s ultimate purpose was to create a people for Himself—a people who would accept, love, and obey Him.  This choice would not be by force or coercion.  God created man out of love; real love cannot exist without the freedom to accept or reject.

If you take a hammer and smash your finger you will feel pain.  You can exercise free will and hit your finger, but you will experience pain.  Some other person may hit your finger with the hammer; you now have pain because of their actions.  Either way, your finger hurts.  While you don’t want someone to smash your finger, do you really want to live in a world void of free will?  Would you want to live in a world void of natural laws?  While the absence of rain might trigger wild fires, the presence of rain is an obvious blessing.  You can violate the laws of gravity, go to the top of a high building and jump off.  If you do that, you will likely hurt or even kill yourself.  But do you want to live in a world without gravity?

Adam and Eve exercised free will; their decision brought devastation, disease, and death to something that was initially “very good.”  Sin changed the original creation.  The physical universe suffers the “groans” of creation because of these choices (Rom. 8:18-22).  We live in a fallen world, not a perfect universe.  Christians can expect pain and suffering as a part of this world.

Why do we blame God instead of human beings for the misery in the world?  Sin rebels against God—it is evil.  The chaos in the world is the result of our rebellion; it is not God’s fault.  God is not pleased with the condition of this world.  That is why He has set about to rectify the mess man has made; He is doing this through His Son Jesus Christ.  When men try to live independently of God, the result is sin.  Living for God brings life; it also brings some answers to life’s most perplexing questions.  –   Randy Harshbarger


We ask questions about human suffering; yet, satisfactory answers are not always forthcoming.  The Bible does not explain suffering in a systematic way.  Still, we accept human suffering as a part of life.  And when we suffer, we want to know where God is in the midst of our pain.

A perplexing problem is the fact that righteous people suffer, while wicked people prosper; or, at least it appears this way to us. Job, a righteous man, suffered much. In the midst of his anguish, he wondered what was going on in his world, in his life. “It is all one thing; Therefore I say, ‘He destroys the blameless and the wicked.’ If the scourge slays suddenly, He laughs at the plight of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked. He covers the faces of its judges. If it is not He, who else could it be?” (Job 9:22-24; 13:24; 21:7).  Other Bible writers asked the same questions. ”O God, how long will the adversary reproach? Will the enemy blaspheme Your name forever?” (Psa. 74:19).  How can heartless unbelievers who care nothing for God go through life and receive nothing but good?

How did Job cope with his suffering?  He asked lots of questions.  He was a believer, but he still wanted to know why he was having to endure suffering he believed he did not deserve. His friends were insensitive and wrongly concluded that Job’s problems were the result of his sin.  How could someone who was sincere and honest and had set a good example for others, still be stricken with such horrible calamities?              There are at least three great answers to Job’s questions—said answers permeate the book.  First, God is worthy of our love; He alone deserves our total praise and adoration.  This is true even if we never, ever receive anything from Him.  Second, God can permit suffering in the life of a believer in order to purify one’s faith.  Third, our focus must always be on God’s infinite wisdom. He knows more than we know; His ways are above our ways.  In the midst of Job’s losses (earthly possessions, children, good health, bad advice from his wife, flesh caked with disease) God’s sovereignty rings forth.  That is, Job suffering falls under the rule of God; in this case, the righteous do sometimes suffer.  Job’s goodness is set in contrast to his misery.  His quandaries were many; if our suffering is more or less, then our questions might be more or less.  Job was not blamed for seeking answers, nor are we.  Job did not go quietly to the ash heap, but he did not abandon his faith in God.

If Job could understand something about why he was suffering, then maybe he could understand something about God.  Job is never told about Satan’s challenge.  He is thrust into the midst of great pain and is left seeking answers.  He suffered a fate that seemingly should be for the wicked.  How could he say:  “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him” (13:15)?  Do we have that kind of faith?                 – Randy Harshbarger



Most Bible readers recognize that the title above comes from the beloved 23rd Psalm.  The Psalmists relate experiences from their lives; these include doubt, questions, despair, persecution, and pain.  God’s word does not lightly pass by or sugarcoat the real troubles that even believers experienced.  He does, though, often help and solace in times of need.  That encouragement is often expressed in the Psalms.

The Psalms speak to the inner longings and most personal of feelings that come deep from within one’s soul.  Human feelings and emotions are emitted in times of great trouble.  Readers of such human drama are easily able to identify with those who cried out in deep anguish.  The Psalms can be treated as a hymnbook for those who want to lives their lives in the right way before God.  Even in the midst of great problems, the Psalmists teach us how to give thanks, praise, and adoration to Jehovah.  The Psalms invite us to trust in God.

Psalm 73 explains the suffering of those who are trying to be righteous—those who are trying to be faithful.  In spite of their efforts, they still suffer.  Adding insult to injury is the fact that at the same time, the wicked are prospering.  Is this right?  Isn’t this unfair?  Doesn’t God care about what is happening to His people; does He even take note of the countless wicked who continue living with not a thought of the Almighty?

“A Psalm of Asaph. Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart” (73:1).  Space forbids including more of the Psalm.  By reading it, though, we can see the struggles of faith that Asaph had.  He wants to be in fellowship with God; he wants to believe that God does care about his plight.  Yet, Asaph wavers when he sees the wicked prospering (73:4-5).  Is his life of faith and purity in vain?  Why is God so good to the wicked?  Yet, when Asaph takes time to truly focus on God, he sees that ultimately the wicked will perish (73:18-19).  God’s justice will be meted out.  Asaph concludes that it is better to be with God now, even in pain, and to be with God forever when life is over.  The wicked have no such thoughts. Asaph determined to remain with God (73:23-24).  God’s presence in his life became the focal point for all living, struggles, the good and bad (73:25-28).

If we envy the wicked, then we may end up hating God.  Our view of the world can be so skewed that we forget about God or deny Him altogether.  We find little value in faith and purity.  Yet, if we will find true delight in worshiping and serving God, we are then about to live triumphantly, even in the midst of pain.  We can live with the knowledge that God’s justice will win out.  We can know that when we are with God, regardless of what happens, we in the best possible place to be.  That is what the Psalms teach us.  –  Randy Harshbarger



“And it will be when you say, ‘Why does the LORD our God do all these things to us?’ then you shall answer them, ‘Just as you have forsaken Me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve aliens in a land that is not yours” (Jer. 5:19).  God’s prophets were men who spoke for God.  Their messages had been put in their hearts by God (Deut. 18:18).  Their messages did not originate with them; their messages came from God (2 Pet. 1:21).  Many times God’s prophets suffered at the hands of God’s own people—people who were supposed to be listening and following the divine message.  Jeremiah is one such prophet who suffered greatly because of God’s own people and their refusal to listen to the warnings and instructions from God.

Jeremiah was called to his prophetic office before birth (Jer. 1:5-8).  He yield to God’s call and embarked on a life’s journey of preaching to a rebellious Israel.  His life was one of tragedy, suffering, and rejection.  He is remembered as the “weeping prophet” as he wept over the spiritual condition of God’s people.

What did Jeremiah say about his own personal suffering?  He asked “Why is my pain perpetual?” (Jer. 15:18).  He asked:  “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?” (Jer. 12:1).  He became a “laughing stock” (Jer. 20:7).  He asked God to judge his enemies (Jer. 18:19-23).  He labored in the midst of “anguish” (Jer. 4:19).  He was “sick at heart” (Jer. 8:18).  Through it all he did not give up on God’s love and power (Jer. 32:17-22).

What is the point?  Just this:  Jeremiah wrestled with pain and suffering; his misery was great because he was serving God faithfully.  That is, the trials and tribulations that came to the prophet were the result of his faithfulness to God.  The reality of his hard life, though, made him stronger.  His trials gave him greater resolve to press on in service to the Lord.  Undeserved opposition could not stop him from broadcasting God’s message of repent or perish!  The people of his day had turned to idols; they did not trust in God.  Yet, Jeremiah’s faith in God helped him continue.  He persevered when others quit.

When we put our faith and trust in material things, in medical science, in human power, in fame and pleasure, let us remember that these “gods” will always fail us.  Jeremiah’s faith helped him endure a troubled life.  Those who forsake the Lord, as did Israel, can only face this life without available strength and sustenance; ultimately, all who forsake the Lord will face His wrath.  God wants you and me to have wholeness and hope.  Even as God punished His people, He wanted what was best for them.  He wants the same for you and me.

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive” (Jer. 29:13-14). – Randy Harshbarger



“Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isa. 53:4).  Jesus left heaven and came to this earth.  This choice brought Him to the cross.  The personal suffering Jesus experienced was particularly severe during the final days of His life on earth.  His willingness to suffer and die means that you and I can have redemption—redemption through His blood.  There are fewer references to suffering in the NT than in the OT.  Because of this, the suffering of Jesus in a very special way can help us better understand something about suffering.  We ask:  “Why do people suffer?”  We might ask:  “Why did Jesus suffer?”

A common misconception in Bible times was that people suffered because of sin.  In John 9:3 Jesus said: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”  This incident involves a man who had been blind from birth.  Jesus made the man to see.  There are many cases of suffering where Jesus healed the people of their many distresses.  “And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick” (Matt. 14:14).  He was concerned about the hungry and the helpless.  He identified with the outcasts in society (Matt. 15:32; 9:36; 25:35-40).

It was, of course, a matter of prophesy that Jesus would suffer.  Isaiah 53 is probably the most well-known OT passage that speaks of the Messiah as the suffering servant.  Several NT passages indicate that Christ’s suffering fulfilled OT prophecy. For example Matthew 26:54 says: “How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”    OT passages predicting the suffering of Christ include Genesis 3:15, Psalm 2:2, Psalm 22, and Zechariah 9:9-10.  The NT clearly states the case that, in fact, Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the fulfillment of these OT prophecies.

The NT clearly identified Christ with Isaiah 53.  When Philip preached to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, he appealed to Isaiah 53—this was the place where the eunuch was reading from.  From this opening Philip “preached Jesus” (Acts 8:35).  Matthew quotes Isaiah 53:4 (Matt. 8:14-17).  Jesus said that Isaiah was fulfilled in Him (Isa. 53:12; Lk. 23:37).  Peter refers to Jesus as Servant (Acts 3:13ff).  In 1st Peter Christ’s sufferings are referred to (1 Pet. 1:19; 2:22-25; Isa. 53:6-7).  No passage has greater meaning for the Christian than Isaiah 53.  No passage has greater power to move the Christian to depths of reverence and awe and thankfulness for who Christ is than Isaiah 53.

The fingerprints of the Messiah are all over the OT and the NT.    Let us be amazed that God would send His Son.  Let us be thankful that the Christ would come.  Let us rejoice that He was willing to die for our sins, as He endured the shame and suffering of the cross.  He did not have to; but He did.  –  Randy Harshbarger



Jesus’ death on the cross provides salvation from sin for all who will come to Him; redemption is realized in this greatest of all acts of human history.  It is true, too, that the cross helps those who are suffering; the cross speaks to the suffering and misery that countless beings experience.

“Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:8-9).  Jesus was perfected as our sacrifice through His trials and sufferings.  Our faith can be made stronger even in the midst of our sufferings.  Pain per se does not mature us; how we react to that pain can make us stronger; especially is this so when we remember what Christ endured for us.

Sometimes Christians suffer because of their faith.  “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).  When this happens, we have a choice as to how we will react.  Will we retaliate? Will we seek the peace even of those who are doing us harm?  What did Jesus do?  “When He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23).  Jesus was betrayed, abused, and mistreated. Still He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  Can we react in a similar manner; can we follow the example of Christ even when we suffer wrongly?

Faithfulness to Christ means that we will suffer.   The challenge to take up our crosses daily and follow Jesus brings us into conflict with enemies of the cross.  After telling His disciples that He would go to Jerusalem to die, He then said:  “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).   Our willingness to die for our faith is a powerful example to the lost.  Suffering involves unselfish living for Jesus.

When Jesus suffered, what kind of attitude did He have?  We run our race “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).  We need to remember that our afflictions are only momentary and light (2 Cor. 4:16-18).   When we suffer with and for Christ, we will soon share in glory (John 12:23).  We must remember that all human suffering does not lead to glory.  But people of faith can see beyond the present with the proper perspective about suffering.  We don’t have to be sidetracked in our faith because something bad happens to us.

The cross of Christ shows us that God is not indifferent about our troubles.  The fact that He allowed His Son to die for each of us is proof of His care and concern.  Even when we suffer, God still loves us.  –  R. Harshbarger



Paul wrote to Timothy that faithful followers of Jesus would be persecuted. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).  While this is true for all Christians, it was certainly true for Christ’s apostles—those specially chosen men who served as the Savior’s envoys with the gospel.

Jesus spoke to the Apostles about the obstacles they would face when they went forth preaching.  “But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles” (Matt. 10:17-18).  Shortly before His death, Jesus reminded the Apostles about the hatred of the world they would face as they carried out the Great Commission (John 15:18-21).  The book of Acts contains several examples of how the Apostles were persecuted (Acts 4:1-22).  The gospel was growing; thousands became Christians.  In spite of beatings and imprisonment, the Apostles pressed on. “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).  Later, after the stoning of Stephen, the Jerusalem church was scattered because of persecution; this did not stop them from carrying the word with them (Acts 8:1-4).

Stephen is the first recorded martyr for Christ.  His preaching (Acts 7) stirred up the hatred of the Jews against him.  They said he was blaspheming Moses and God (Acts 6:11).  The elders, scribes, and Sanhedrin, using trumped up false testimony, eventually put him to death.  Stephen (name means crown) was victorious and magnanimous in his death.

A young man by the name of Saul held the coats of those who cast stones at Stephen.  His intense hatred of the Christians led him to do all he could to exterminate these religious fanatics.  Saul consented (approved) to Stephen’s death (Acts 22:20).  He later wrote to the Galatians saying:  “For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it” (Gal. 1:13).  Saul who became the Apostle Paul would eventually suffer many things for Jesus (2 Cor. 11:24-33).

You might mistakenly die for a cause.  Stephen and the other persecuted Christians in the 1st century knew that what they were dying for was true.  The death of martyrs confirmed the truthfulness of the gospel message.  Often pagans were impressed with the courage of these Christians.  A martyr is a “legal witness.”  In the NT it refers to the faithful testimony for Christ; often this was in the face of persecution or death.

The call of the gospel is a call to death—death to sin, death to self, and if need be, physical death for Christ.  “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).  –  Randy Harshbarger



“For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16).  When the Lord called Saul of Tarsus to be the apostle to the Gentiles, Saul was warned ahead of time that he would suffer persecution.  Prior to his conversion, Paul was a ringleader in trying to persecute as many Christians as he possibly could.  “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:3).  He acted like a wild beast who devoured its prey.  He wanted to destroy the identify of the Lord’s church.  Yet, he succeeded only in filling the dungeons of Jerusalem and Palestine with Christians—people who would rather die than give up their faith in Christ.  And now Saul the persecutor became Paul the persecuted.

Reflecting on his past life, Paul said:   “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor. 15:9).  He never forgot the harm he brought to these early Christians.  He became the target of Jewish opposition; there were many plots against his life; these started soon after his obedience to the Lord (Acts 9:23-24).  In spite of opposition from his fellow Jews, Paul considered his past life in Judaism as garbage.  “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).

Paul faced persecution from non-Jews, too.  When he cast the demon out of the tormented girl (Acts 16), he was soon put in jail.  His enemies would not allow someone to ruin such a lucrative business.  Paul and Silas, though, sang praises to God.  And soon the Philippian jailor became a Christian.  Paul left Philippi and went to Thessalonica where he was persecuted.  His motivation was never greed; rather, he was sincerely trying to obey the Lord and to help others see the Lord.

Paul never felt sorry for himself.  Rather, he viewed his sufferings as a badge of honor for Christ.  “From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6:17). He would even boast about his sufferings.  “If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity” (2 Cor. 11:30).

Paul’s focus was not on self; he cared little for the sufferings that came to him.  Rather, he had a single-minded devotion to the power of the gospel message.  The power of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus propelled him forward in faithful service.  Rather than feeling sorry for himself, Paul knew that his life could serve as an example for others as a fresh “fragrance” (2 Cor. 2:14).  For Paul, suffering was not a discomfort; it was an integral part of his ministry.  Through it all, Paul believed and practiced that God’s grace was sufficient to see him through the light afflictions of this life.  Let us do as Paul did; when we suffer, always remember Christ.   –   Randy Harshbarger



The NT is clear about the fact that Christians will suffer.  “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).  We should not be surprised or think it a strange thing when we suffer because of our faith.  A better question might be:  Why don’t we suffer more?  The NT does not tell us to seek out sufferings; rather, sufferings, persecutions, and oppositions will come because we are living for Christ. And the NT certainly tells us to find strength in the Lord when these difficult times comes our way.

The life of the Christian is not carefree.  It is a mistake to tell people:  “Become a Christian, and all your troubles will vanish.”  Coming to Christ provides release from sin and its consequences—this is our greatest need.  Yet, becoming a follower of Jesus might just be only the beginning of our troubles.  Jesus said:  “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:10-12).  Remember, though, that we do not receive a blessing for being persecuted when our foolishness, obnoxiousness, or over- zealousness creates problems for us.  Peter said that if we suffer, make sure it is for doing what is right (1 Pet. 4:14-16).

The early disciples were scattered because of being persecuted (Acts 8).  When we, as God’s children, speak up for the good and speak out against the evil, opposition will surely come.  Even our good behavior will sometimes bring opposition.  1 Timothy 6:1 says:  “Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.” Evil men will speak against the truth; we must make sure we don’t give them amble reason to do so.  Evil people will whisper about us, lie about us, and ridicule us.  Just don’t give them just cause for doing so.

In the 1st c. Christians often suffered; they were imprisoned, physically punished, and often, put to death.  Their persecution sometimes came from social relationships, economic relationships, and civil relationships (1 Pet. 2:13ff).  Even in the most trying of times we must remember that vengeance belongs to the Lord (Rom. 12:14-21).

Do we enjoy being persecuted and hated?  Of course not.  But the real question is:  Whose approval do we really want:  The world’s or the Lord’s?   “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:15-18).  –  Randy Harshbarger



The Apostle Peter wrote:  “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Peter 4:16).  Peter wrote to Christians who were being persecuted.  Most believe this letter was written during or near the time of the Neroian persecution.  There was a fire in Rome (July 19, AD 64), which destroyed most of the city.  Ancient historians, Tacitus and Pliny the Elder, wrote about this fire.  It is from Tacitus that we get the phrase, “Nero fiddled, while Rome burned.”  There is doubt about the historical truthfulness of this statement, though.  Some blamed Nero for the fire; in turn, he blamed Christians for the fire.  Forced confessions pointed the finger toward God’s people.  Christians were thrown to the dogs, crucified, and used as torches to light the city.  Expositors reference 1 Peter 4:12 as evidence of Nero’s persecution of Christians. ”Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.”

Suffering for Christ will bring a blessing to those who endure these trials.  The fear of men wanes even in the face of persecution.  Admittedly, in the face of severe opposition, it is a challenge to respond as we should; gentleness and respect must rule the day; still, it is difficult.  Peter said: ”but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:13).  Remember  that in the midst of suffering, we are partaking of Christ’s glory.  He suffered; as His followers, we will suffer.  What helps us continue to be faithful, even when we are being persecuted?  “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (1 Peter 5:10).

Standing for the truth will bring opposition.  The godly lifestyles of Christians stands in contrast to the ungodly lives of most people.  We are sojourners and pilgrims.  We are outcasts and aliens who live in a foreign land.  Pilgrims lack the status and security of residents. Rejection of paganism by Christians in the 1st c. brought the stigma of society upon them.  But this is not a strange thing, Peter says!  Get used to it.  If you are a godly person, you will be persecuted.  Living as Christians does not eliminate persecution; it invites it.  Christians are people who are not comfortable in their culture (should not be!).  Peter wrote about new converts and the reactions of the world to these former friends, who now, were following Christ (1 Peter 4:1-4).  Don’t be surprised when former friends oppose us. When we now refuse to engage in the sins of the world as we once did, we will be opposed; often, this comes from those near and dear to us.

Through it all, we must remember that Jesus paved the way for us.  “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Let us find strength in Christ.  –  Randy Harshbarger



Surely anyone who has experienced trials, pain, and suffering in this life, has asked:  What is the point?  What am I supposed to learn from all of these troubles?  Can we find value, even in the midst of great difficulty?  One might argue that there must be some value in suffering, since suffering is a part of life.  Is our purpose in life the avoidance of pain?  Can we understand something about our pain?  Should our focus be some kind of “big picture?”

It is easy to see that pain of some kind can have a good result.  If you stick your hand to a hot stove, you feel pain.  Your hand is burned, you might be crying, and now you need some kind of medical attention.  But you will be careful around hot stoves from now on!  Pain warns us that something is not right.  It is said that people with leprosy cannot feel their flesh wasting away; this causes even more problems.  Yet, do we sometimes feel as if pain in this world is out of control?  And especially is this true when our loved ones are suffering greatly.  In these times it is hard to keep smiling, to keep our chins up, to just roll with the punches.

Romans 5:3-4 says:  “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  When we overcome our adversities, our character is made stronger.  That can be one good benefit of pain.  Who among us does not need more patience, character, and hope?  Is this what the Psalmist means when he says:  “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes” (119:71).

The Apostle Paul suffered with his thorn in the flesh.  Yet, his pain became an occasion to boast, not in self, but in God (2 Cor. 12:7).  Isn’t it true that God needs people who will continue to be faithful even in the midst of pain?  Cannot we still set a good example for the alien world around us?  In Paul’s words to the Corinthians about the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12), he says that every member of the body is important.  This helps us understand the members of the body derive comfort from the care and concern of fellow members of the body.  In these times we have the opportunity to express our love to others.  The Apostle Peter (1 Peter 4:1-2) says that our afflictions in this life can help us turn away from sin.  That is, an examination of our lives  will reveal the need to be faithful rather than turning back to the world.  Peter also said to rejoice in our trials.  These may result from our faith in Christ; they can be severe.

In the end, suffering in this life may help us to remember that we will not live in this world forever.  People of faith anticipate the world to come; they do so, even in the face of often great suffering.  The focus of faith in Christ can see us through all the way to heaven. – Randy Harshbarger