The Bible reminds us that God is good, that he created a good world, that he loves us—and that pain and suffering are a pervasive part of the human experience. Beyond this, pain and suffering largely remains a mystery. Therefore, one of the most unhelpful words of consolation to someone facing adversity is, “Everything happens for a reason.” Sure, everything happens for a reason, but often the reasons are evil and have nothing to do with God. What we believe about pain and suffering can have deep consequences and affect what we believe about God. It is critical to evaluate what we believe about suffering in light of Scripture’s testimony so that we can walk through personal adversity with integrity and offer the kind of consolation to others that makes a positive difference.
Watch this Seven Minute Seminary from Carolyn Moore to learn more about a biblical theology of suffering.
The Nine Myths Christians Believe about Suffering
1. All suffering is a result of my own sin. TRUTH: some suffering is the result of natural events or someone else’s decisions (Ecc. 9:11; Jer. 31:15; Matt. 2:18; Luke 13:1-5)
2. All suffering is caused by someone else’s sins. TRUTH: sometimes suffering is a result of your own sin (Prov. 13:20; 1 Cor. 11:30);
3. No suffering is the result of sin. TRUTH: suffering is the result of the fall in the Garden of Eden, and there won’t be suffering in the new heavens and earth (Gen. 3:13-19; Rev. 21:1-4);
4. Suffering is always good. TRUTH: God can redeem suffering, but suffering is not intrinsically good (Rom. 8:18-21);
5. All suffering is bad. TRUTH: recovery is often a painful journey, and God’s fire is a refining fire (Zech. 13:9; Mal. 2:17–3:6; Rom. 8:28; Heb. 12:6, 10)
6. All suffering is God’s fault. TRUTH: God is not the author of evil (1 Cor. 14:33; James 1:12-13; 1 John 4:8)
7. All suffering is Satan’s fault. TRUTH: In believing this we miss the opportunity to take responsibility for our own sin (Heb. 12:5–10, 14)
8. Good Christians are exempt from suffering. TRUTH: The global church, who often suffers persecution, knows of no such exemption (Rom. 5:3-4; 1 Thess. 3:3; James 1:2-4)
9. Suffering means that I’m a good Christian. TRUTH: Christians should not make a virtue out of suffering, as it is not directly related to a moral life (Matt. 6:16; Col. 2:20-23; 1 Thess. 4:10-12).
Explore more seeds: watch another Seven Minute Seminary on the problem of evil by philosopher Michael Peterson; Talbot Davis shares his wisdom with 6 points on leading funeral services; view all of our resources on pain and suffering here; read a piece contrasting the human vs. divine explanations for evil; read this expert advice for parents helping their children process grief.