Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; I Peter 4:1
The Bible has much to say concerning suffering, problems, and afflictions. Consider Apostle Paul's words in Romans:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
As believers of God, we have to know by faith and our experience or the testimony of other believers that God is always in total control. God takes the bad circumstances in our life and turns it for His glory when we allow Him to reign in our life.
In summarizing this truth, there are five ways that suffering can enter a believer’s life. All suffering we face in life will come through one of these ways:
OTHERS AROUND YOU:
Suffering and difficult circumstances of life may come through others around us.
Joseph is an example of this type of suffering. Through no fault of his own, Joseph was sold into Egypt by his brothers, was imprisoned falsely by Potiphar's wife, and was forgotten by those he helped in prison. But listen to his response. Joseph said:
Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life. . . so now it was not you that sent me hither but God. (Genesis 45:5, 7)
CIRCUMSTANCES OF LIFE:
The second way suffering comes to us is through the circumstances of life. This is illustrated by the experiences of Naomi recorded in the book of Ruth in the Bible. She was bitter with sorrow because of the death of her husband and sons and the situation in which their deaths her.
And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? Ruth 1:20-21
Until Jesus returns and finally death is conquered, death is part of life. Death entered through the original sin of man and it is a natural circumstance which we all will face, for "it is appointed unto man once to die"
And as it is appointed unto men once to die , but after this the judgment: (Hebrews 9:27)
When Naomi experienced these difficult circumstances of life, she said, "No longer call me Naomi (which means blessed), but call me Mara." The name Mara means "bitter." (Ruth 1:20)
The third reason for suffering is because of your ministry for the Lord. The New Testament speaks of suffering:
for His name's sake (Acts 9:16),
in behalf of Christ, (Philippians 1:29)
for the Kingdom of God (II Thessalonians 1:5),
for the Gospel (II Timothy 1:11-12),
for well-doing (I Peter 2:19-20; 3:17),
for righteousness sake (I Peter 3:14),
as a Christian (I Peter 4:15-16), and
according to the will of God (I Peter 4:19).
The Apostle Paul is an example of suffering resulting from ministry. Some people view suffering as a sign of failure or lack of faith. If this is true, then the Apostle Paul had no faith and was the greatest failure in the history of the church. I believe Apostle Paul's faith was so rooted and grounded that during his time in jail, while in Antioch awaiting death, he was able to sleep soundly while bound in chains to 2 guards. No possible way of escape and yet he slept without a care in the world.
And when Herod would have brought him forth , the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold , the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up , saying , Arise up quickly *. And his chains fell off from his hands. Acts 12;6-7
However, this was not always the case with Paul. He learned perseverance through his suffering. Apostle Paul said that while in Asia he was so utterly crushed that he despaired of life itself:
For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: (II Corinthians 1:8).
He presents a different image than that of the cheerful evangelist who promises believers nothing but peace and prosperity.
When Apostle Paul was first called of God to ministry he was told of great things he would suffer:
For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake (Acts 9:16).
Apostle Paul's response to suffering was to endure "the loss of all things to win some for Christ." He wrote to believers:
"to you it is given not only to believe, but to suffer for Him." (Philippians 1:29)
Apostle Paul was not alone in suffering for the ministry. The whole church suffered in New Testament times (Acts 8). Hebrews 11 records the accounts of some of the cruel persecutions they endured. Many of these men and women of faith were delivered by the power of God. Prison doors were opened and they walked out. They were sentenced to death in fiery furnaces but emerged unaffected by the flames.
But some of these believers, who are also called men and women of faith, did not receive such deliverance. They were imprisoned, afflicted, tormented, and even martyred because of their testimony of the Gospel (Hebrews 11:36-40). We focus on living faith but God also reveals His power in unrelenting faith. This is a faith that stands true in the bad times, not just in good times when mighty deliverance is manifested.
DIRECT SATANIC ACTIVITY:
The fourth reason suffering can also enter our life as a result of direct Satanic activity.
This is evident in the story of Job. This book wrestles with the question, "Why do the righteous suffer?" God's testimony of Job was that he was a righteous man (Job 1-2). Job did not suffer because he had sinned, as his friends claimed. They believed if Job repented, his circumstances would change.
These friends tried to make a universal application based on individual experience. It would be similar to saying that because God delivered Peter from prison He will do the same for you. This is not true. Many have been martyred in prison despite their great faith and sinless lives.
We must be careful when we view the suffering of others that we do not accuse them of sin, faithlessness, or unbelief. The Bible does teach that a sinful man reaps a bitter harvest because of sowing in fleshly corruption:
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:8)
But sowing and reaping cannot be used to explain the suffering of the innocent.
Job did not suffer because of anything he had done. Job was a righteous man. This was God's testimony of Job, Job's testimony of himself, and his reputation before man. Behind the scenes in the spiritual world was the true cause of Job's suffering. There was a spiritual battle going on over the heart, mind, and allegiance of Job.
There is a warfare going on in the spiritual world over you. That warfare is manifested in the difficult circumstances you experience in the natural world.
An important truth evident in Job's suffering is that nothing can enter the life of a believer without the knowledge of God. God does not cause your suffering. It is inflicted by Satan, but its limits are set by God. God's power is greater than that of Satan, and you will experience victory if you continue to trust Him.
YOUR OWN SIN:
The fifth way suffering enters our life is because of our own sin.
Jonah is an example of such suffering. In disobedience to God, Jonah headed the opposite direction from Ninevah where he had been commanded to go and preach repentance. He experienced a terrible storm at sea and ended up in the belly of a great fish because of his own sin (Jonah 1-2).
Trouble should always be treated as a call to consider your ways and examine your heart before God. We may be suffering because of our own sin. The Bible reveals that God chastises those who live in disobedience to His Word. Chastise means to discipline, reprove, and correct:
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Hebrews 12:11)
God uses suffering to correct us and bring us back to His will for our life:
Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy Word. . .
It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes. . .
I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that THOU in faithfulness hast afflicted me. (Psalms 119:67, 71, 75)