The purpose of suffering

CS Lewis


Suffering is inevitable. Some is the result of one’s own doing as illustrated by Adam and Eve. We find others who likewise suffered due to their own decisions: Cain, Samson, David, and the list could go on. We find some who suffered because of what others had done: One of the greatest examples is Job. He suffered because he was cited by God as one who was upright in all his ways. Some suffered because of what others did by way of sinning against God. I think of Ezra, Nehemiah, etc. Some suffered as the result of God allowing or deeming it. Paul is a great example. Things have not changed. Suffering is still the result of all the causes cited above. Suffering started in the perfect setting. And, all suffering is redeemable. Joseph told his brothers that what they had meant for evil God meant for good. Job stated that at one time his ears had heard of God and “now my eye sees You”. David responded to his suffering (some as the result of what he had done and some as the result of what others had done) and was described as a man after God’s own heart.

The purpose of suffering? Ultimately, it would seem to be that we would know and rely upon God. Paul talked about his thorn in the flesh: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”, 2 Corinthians 12: 8-10, ESV. Wow! To be of like-mindedness with Paul.

Jesus, as He was praying for Himself and his disciples in John 17:3, and then all future believers, said the following: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (ESV). I have experienced some suffering in my life. Some has been the result of my own doing, some perpetrated by others, and perhaps some to conform me to His image. After cancer, the death of my son, and the ending of a second marriage; all within a span of two-and-a-half years, I determined to ask three questions: “Who do I turn to? What can I learn? How can I use it?” Those three questions have become increasingly important to me. I want to know God. The word know, as used by Jesus in the prayer, is the Greek word that means “to know by experience”. That is what I want. I do not relish suffering. But, it simply is a fact, a result of living in a “fallen world”. God made the first blood sacrifice in Eden after the sins of Adam and Eve. He made the last, and ultimate blood sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. I am covered by that blood.