How many of us would enroll in a college named the University of Suffering? I’d probably send my application somewhere else! But Jesus promised his disciples that there would be suffering in life. He didn’t say if you do really bad things you will suffer (although this is often true), and he didn’t say if you insult evil people you might suffer some negative consequences (although this can also occur). He said there will be suffering – period. Not if or maybe, but just that it will happen.
Many philosophers and theologians have wrestled with the problem of suffering and why God allows it, but no one has discovered the definitive answer. We do know that sometimes we suffer for doing something wrong, and sometimes we suffer at the hands of evil people, but sometimes we suffer because we are doing the right thing. And sometimes we suffer for no apparent reason at all – at least we don’t now understand why (but i believe God will explain everything when we meet Him face to face).
I believe one reason God allows suffering is because it teaches us about life, instills patience, and creates the conditions our faith needs to grow. If you think back over your life and recall some of the most difficult times you have endured, I suspect that you can also think of lessons you learned as a result of the hard times you went through. I know in many cases the worst storms of my life produced growth and deepened my faith.
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:16-18)
So, if we know God holds us in the palm of His hand – no matter what, we can trust that no matter what difficulty we face, we will be okay. And we can be confident that nothing can happen to us that God hasn’t allowed. When we have been through a few trials, we usually become more confident that even the worst possibilities bring with them opportunities for growth. As we trust God and are patient in our sufferings, we know that He will make everything work out for our good. After all, life is just a test, and we already know the answer we need to pass the test with flying colors – Jesus Christ! Let’s believe that God knows what he is doing and that His love for us is greater than our struggles. Even though it can be intimidating, the school of suffering is preparing us for a life of eternal joy!