Happiness is what many seek in this life. Blessings, especially temporal and material ones, are considered by most people as signs of a successful and accomplished life. Suffering and all kinds of misfortunes are thought to be a curse, symptoms of disobedience, or lack of faith.

Job’s friends had this kind of belief. Their theology seems uncomplicated. Obedience to God results in material blessings. Sin or disobedience brings a lot of trouble in one’s life.

This might be true in many cases but not in all situations. Job was an upright man “who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). Yet in the wise providence of God, Job suffered so much – loss of children, loss of properties, even loss of good health.

Joseph was also a faithful servant of God and the Lord was with him (Gen. 39:2, 21; Acts 7:9). But his righteous life did not spare him from being rejected and hated by his brothers. His faith in God brought him many troubles – false accusation, imprisonment, and humiliation. 

Most of all, our Lord Jesus was and is the Righteous One. He committed no sin. However, because of His obedience and faithfulness to His Father’s will, He went through many trials and tribulations. He suffered and died not for His sin. He had none. In fact, it was the will of God ‘to crush Him’ and to ‘put Him to grief’ (Isa. 53:10) for our sake.

So suffering such as poverty, bankruptcy, failure, sickness, even depression, is not always a curse in one’s life. It could actually be a way to holiness or sanctification, a blessing that when accepted heartily by faith leads to true joy and glory.

Holiness is what God seeks from us in this life. Like Christ, the Christians’ way to true blessing, holiness, and glorification is ‘via dolorosa’ (or the way of suffering).

The Holy Scripture is very clear that Christians are called to suffer for righteousness’ sake, like their Lord and Master (1 Pet. 2:20-21; 3:9). Life in the kingdom of God includes hardship that we, Christians, must endure in order to grow in the faith (Acts 14:22).

While we enjoy every single blessing that comes from the fatherly hand of God, we do not despise or grumble in every painful experience that comes from the same hand. In His sovereign wisdom God’s favor or blessing comes both in good and bad times.

In trusting the Lord in our every circumstance – thanking Him in times of prosperity and being patient in seasons of adversity – we gain a heart of wisdom. When we learn to entrust ourselves in the faithfulness of God we grow in our most holy faith, pleasing the Lord and enjoying His favor.

“The sovereignty of God is the one impregnable rock to which the suffering human heart must cling,” says Margaret Clarkson. “The circumstances surrounding our lives are no accident: they may be the work of evil, but that evil is held firmly within the mighty hand of our sovereign God….All evil is subject to Him, and evil cannot touch His children unless He permits it. God is the Lord of human history and of the personal history of every member of His redeemed family” (“Grace Grows Best in Winter,” 40-41, cited in Jerry Bridges’s “Trusting God” [NavPress, 2008], 28).

A Christian Perspective on Suffering

Vic Bernales is an ordained minister in the Pearl of the Orient Covenant Reformed Church. He pastors the Davao Covenant Reformed Church in Davao City, Philippines. He earned his Master of Divinity at Mid-America Reformed Seminary at Dyer, Indiana, U.S.A.

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