A Christian Response to Suffering

Why Does God Allow Suffering?


Being a Christian doesn’t exempt you from hardship. Your car gets totaled by a drunk driver, your mom is diagnosed with cancer, or your coworkers ridicule you for being a Christian. Why does God allow His people to suffer? In this 2-part post, pastors Thabiti Anyabwile, Buster Brown, and John Mahaffey, talk about why God allows pain and how Christians should respond to suffering. 

In this first video, Buster Brown, Senior Pastor of East Cooper Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, explains how suffering can draw us closer to God. 




 Suffering befalls everyone. Christians can look at suffering from God’s perspective, knowing that He has a purpose for allowing us to be in pain.

What reason did Buster give for the problem of suffering? Why does God allow Christians to suffer?
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Buster quoted C.S. Lewis to explain why God allows pain: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  

How does C.S. Lewis’ quote strike you? Have you ever heard God speak to you through your pain? If so, would you have listened to Him if He spoke differently?
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Have you experienced suffering? How did it affect you and your relationship with God?
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God allows us to be in pain so we can draw near to Him. But not all Christians undergo hardship at the same time. Why does God sometimes allow certain Christians to suffer and others to flourish? In this second video, Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor at Anacostia River Church in Washington, D.C., teaches why God allows some people to suffer and lets others thrive.  



God allows us to go through hardship as Christians. His fulfills His purposes and teaches us to be more like Christ as we suffer. 

According to Thabiti, why does God allow pain? How does our suffering bring God glory and accomplish His purposes?
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What reason did Thabiti give to explain why God allows some people to suffer and others to thrive?
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When we suffer, we identify with Christ, who endured unimaginable physical, relational, and spiritual pain on the Cross. Does the fact that Jesus suffered just as you do change your attitude toward suffering? Why or why not? How do you see God working through difficult times in your life to make you more like Jesus?
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Thabiti mentioned that suffering is momentary and that it can give us an eternal perspective. How can our pain remind us of eternity?
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Thabiti mentioned that suffering is momentary and that it can give us an eternal perspective. When you experience difficulties, is it easier for you to focus on your pain or on eternity? Why? In what ways has your suffering changed your perspective on eternity?
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Thabiti said Christians should live in such a way that makes it clear to the world that Christ and heaven are our treasure. What might it look like in your life to prize Jesus above all else in your life this week? If you are suffering, what could you do today to trust that God has a purpose for your pain?
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In the midst of your pain, run to Jesus. He relates on the deepest level to your suffering. Pray for strength and endurance to persevere through the trial. Trust that God has a purpose and plan and remember His goodness. He hasn’t forgotten you.  

 
Is it a Sin to Despair?


Tragedy strikes all of us. We get sick, our friend dies in a car crash, our church splits. It's tempting to fall into despair when life beats us down. In the last section, we learned why God allows suffering. In this final section, John Mahaffey, Senior Pastor of West Highland Church in Ontario, Canada, talks about how to cope with despair by trusting God when the uncontrollable happens.  


2 Corinthians 4:8 (ESV)

8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



When we face difficulties, we can be tempted to fall into despair. Despair means being hopeless and depressed with no positive outlook on life. 1 Corinthians 4:8 says Christians are perplexed by what happens in the world, but not driven to despair. 


How did John use this verse to talk about despair? How did he connect it with our view of God and eternity? How can a right understanding of God’s character keep us from despair?
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John switched gears to talk about discouragement in ministry. He said we cannot control if someone becomes a Christian. We also don’t have the power to regenerate people—only the Holy Spirit can do that. When we encounter this kind of discouragement, we should remember that God is the one who brings the fruit.


Does the knowledge that God is the only one who can change people resonate with you? Why or why not?
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Have you experienced the kind of discouragement John described in your Christian walk? If so, what was it like? Did having a right view of God keep you from falling into despair? Why or why not?
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John gave two examples to help those of us in despair: 

  1. Focus on God being in control.
  2. Put your hope in God.

John referred to the two verses below, one from the story of Joseph, the other from a Psalm of David, to illustrate these two principles. 


Genesis 50:20 (ESV)

20As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Psalm 42:5 (ESV)

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Have you ever fallen into despair? If so, what was your attitude toward God during that time? What steps did you take to get out of that hopelessness? Did focusing on and putting your hope in God help? Why or why not?
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If you are suffering, how could you focus on God’s control and hope this week? If you’re not in the middle of a difficult time, how could you pray for your friends and family who are suffering?
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As you go about your week, choose to focus on God being in control. Set your hope in eternity, not in the temporary things of this world. If you are in the middle of hardship, spend intentional time talking with God this week.  


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