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The Purposes of Suffering

May 26, 2019

“Job” by Leon Bonnat (1880), Source (PD-Art, PD-Old)

The list below is drawn from the book When God Weeps — Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes.  Joni speaks with authority about suffering, having been rendered paraplegic by a diving accident at the age of 18.

Suffering is used to increase our awareness of the sustaining power of God to whom we owe our sustenance.  “Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits” (Ps. 68: 19)“…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…” (Phil. 3: 10).

God uses suffering to refine, perfect, strengthen, and keep us from falling. Who keeps our soul among the living, And does not allow our feet to be moved” (Ps. 66: 9).  “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2: 10).

Suffering allows the life of Christ to be manifested in our mortal flesh. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed — always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” ( 2 Cor. 4: 8-10).

Suffering bankrupts us, making us dependent upon God.  “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness‘ ”(1 Cor. 12: 9).

Suffering teaches us humility.  “And lest I should be exalted above measure…a thorn in the flesh was given to me…” (2 Cor. 12: 7).

Suffering imparts the mind of Christ.  “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God…made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2: 5-8).

Suffering teaches us that God is more concerned about character than comfort.  “we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5: 3-4).

Suffering teaches us that the greatest good of the Christian life is not absence of pain, but…[resemblance to Christ].  “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. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” (Rom. 8: 28-29).

Suffering can be a chastisement from God for sin and rebellion.  “Fools, because of their transgression, And because of their iniquities, were afflicted” (Ps. 107: 17).

Obedience and self-control are from suffering.  “…though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5: 8).  “Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word” (Ps. 119: 67).My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1: 2-3).

Voluntary suffering is one way to demonstrate the love of God.  “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8: 9).

Suffering is part of the struggle against sin.  “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?… Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12: 7, 11).

Suffering is part of the struggle against evil men.  “Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries; For false witnesses have risen against me,And such as breathe out violence” (Ps. 27: 12).  “The wicked have drawn the sword…To cast down the poor and needy, To slay those who are of upright conduct.  Their sword shall enter their own heart” (Ps. 37: 14-15).

Suffering is part of the struggle for the kingdom of God.  “…patience and faith in all your persecutions…is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer…” (2 Thess. 1: 4-5).

Suffering is part of the struggle for the gospel.  “Remember that Jesus Christ…was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained” (2 Tim. 2: 8-9).

Suffering is part of the struggle against injustice.  “For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully” (1 Pet. 2: 19).

Suffering is part of the struggle for the name of Christ.  “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5: 41).  “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet. 4: 14).

Suffering indicates how the righteous become sharers in Christ’s suffering.  “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ” (2 Cor. 1: 5).  “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Pet. 4: 12-13).

Endurance of suffering is given as a cause for reward.  “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…” (2 Cor. 4: 17).  “If we endure, We shall also reign with Him” (2 Tim. 2: 12).

Suffering binds Christians together into a common or joint purpose.  “I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1: 9).

Suffering produces discernment, knowledge, and teaches us God’s statutes.  “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes” (Ps. 119: 71). 

Through suffering God is able to obtain our broken and contrite spirit which He desires.  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,A broken and a contrite heart...” (Ps. 51: 17).

Suffering causes us to discipline our minds by making us focus our hope on the grace to be revealed at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus ChristTherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ…“(1 Pet. 1: 6-7, 13).

God uses suffering to humble us so He can exalt us at the proper time. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5: 6-7).

Suffering teaches us to number our days so we can present to God a heart of wisdom.You have set our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance. For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; We finish our years like a sigh...So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90: 8-9, 12).

Suffering is sometimes necessary to win the lost.  “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires…they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Tim. 4: 3-5).

Suffering strengthens and allows us to comfort others who are weak. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer” (2 Cor. 1: 6).

Suffering is small compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3: 8).

God desires truth in our innermost being and one way He does it is through suffering.  “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom” (Ps. 51: 6).

The equity for suffering will be found in the next life.  “…He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked, So that men will say, ‘Surely there is a reward for the righteous; Surely He is God who judges in the earth‘ ” (Ps. 58: 10-11).

Suffering is always coupled with a greater source of grace.  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God...” (2 Tim. 1: 7-8).  “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me…But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear.  Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion” (2 Tim. 4: 16-17).

Suffering teaches us to give thanks in times of sorrow. “…pray without ceasing, …” (1 Thess. 5: 17).  “…you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many” (2 Cor. 1: 11).

Suffering increases faith.  “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29: 11).

Suffering allows God to manifest His care.  “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?” (Ps. 56: 8).

Suffering stretches our hope.  “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13: 15).


  1. Thank you. I will print this to keep it for my reference. Very clearly stated.

    • I’m glad it was helpful to you. Despite or because of her familiarity w/ suffering, Joni Eareckson Tada writes powerfully about the great comfort her faith in God provides.

  2. Oh my. There is so much here for us to draw from Anna! There is a whole series of messages in this post, and I will be copying it for my own personal use and study. Thank you so much for posting this!

  3. Inspiring post, Anna 😇🙏✝️💜 Jackie@KWH

  4. All helpful for a Believer, my Dear Anna. But personal examples would have helped. Regards. 🙂

    • I still carry the scars of incest, so I could rant about suffering. But I try not to get in the way of my posts. The autobiography I wrote was my testimony. Unfortunately, that was never a commercial success, and is now out of print. 🙂

      • Thank You for Your response, my Dear Anna, my Friend. …Am Sure You do not worry about Your autobiography not being a commercial success. …You know You have my Deepest sympathies with Your experiences. …When I wrote about giving experiences in support of what You/I write or speak about, I had not meant extensive sharings, but small ones.

        Anyway, I believe in the way the Spirit guides You. Regards and Love.

      • Thank you, Swami. You are a dear friend and a great support always. Love and Blessings, A. ❤

      • Much appreciated, and ‘Reciprocated,’ my Dear Anna. 🙂

  5. Very well written. Thanks for sharing.

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