Why do Christians suffer?


God gives many promises to those who follow Him. He ...forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases (Psalm 103:3) and He delivers them from all their troubles (Psalm 34:17). He will protect them from disease,[1] give them a long life,[2] preserve them from all harm[3] and meet all their needs.[4] The Bible tells us to ...forget not all His benefits (Psalm 103:2).

Given these promises, why then do Christians get sick and suffer need? Can they not pray and see God deliver them?

Unrealistic expectations of God

God's precious promises are not just for healing and protection but for our whole lives. The purpose for them is so we can become like Christ rather than live a life free from suffering.[5] As Christians, we still live in an evil world and grow old and die and share in the suffering that surrounds us. Although God blesses those who do good and curses those who do evil,[6] this does not mean we will be automatically blessed with perfect health if we do good.[7]

Reasons why Christians suffer

Some suffering is necessary ...'We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God'... (Acts 14:22).[8] We need suffering to refine our character and prove our faith.[9] It is possible to avoid ridicule and persecution by not sharing the gospel or compromising our righteousness in some way.[10]

Unnecessary suffering may occur if we are not sufficiently aggressive against sin in our lives. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Sickness and an untimely death can result from a lack of holiness or unconfessed sin.[11] We can grieve the Holy Spirit through sin[12] and so hinder Him from helping us. Christians sometimes want their own aims fulfilled at the expense of others and so suffer strife - Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). We also may suffer unnecessarily by not believing and trusting in God to protect, heal and deliver us.[13]

Why do Christians suffer?

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Coping with suffering

Our relationship with God is more important than resolving the sufferings we face.[14] We need to continue to trust in God even when He apparently abandons us. Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him... (Job 13:15). Our greatest help here is to know God is utterly righteous.[15] If we are fully persuaded of this, we will be able to trust Him in the darkest of situations and without understanding what is happening to us.[16] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?...For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39).