What does the Bible teach about Suffering?

 

Nobody is promised a life free of suffering

 

Nowhere in the Bible are people promised a life on earth that is free from suffering. It’s part of the human condition. Such suffering can take many forms. Some suffering is the consequence of our own choices and actions. Some is caused by the choices and actions of others. Suffering is also part of living in a fallen world that is groaning for redemption.

We will experience suffering in this life, but God will work everything, including our suffering, for our ultimate good: conforming our characters to the image of Christ.

The apostle Paul wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:18-23, 28 NIV

Paul wrote the following passage to the believers in Rome. It shows that “the Lord’s people” can be in need, in affliction, mourning and persecuted. He encourages them to choose a positive attitude amid these situations and respond to others with love.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:9-15 NIV

  

How should we respond to suffering in our own lives?

 
We are encouraged to pray about everything and intentionally focus our thoughts on what is good and praiseworthy. Doing so will lead to peace that surpasses understanding, in spite of our circumstances.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

 

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:6-9

 
Paul reminds that, as we trust in God, God will fill us with joy, peace and hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV

  

How should we respond to other people’s suffering?

 
We are called to love others as Christ loved us – by giving of ourselves sacrificially.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 NIV

 
See here for a discussion on why “fulfill” means “fully preach”.

However, the Bible does not teach us to end the life of a suffering person. No Biblical writer, teacher, disciple or apostle of Jesus ever taught or modelled ending a person’s life. Instead, they promoted life.

Read more here about suicide, assisted suicide and euthanasia in the Bible.