Bible Texts on Suffering (see actual texts below introduction)

The collection of texts is still being completed - please revisit the linked pages in early 2008
Introduction

The existence of suffering, for example the human suffering caused by non-Christian political ideologies behind two European World Wars, is one of the main reasons that European postmodernity rejects God. In addition, for two centuries, the notion of "God" has been conditioned by philosophical, post Enlightenment thinking and "a divinity who permits suffering" has been considered unacceptable.

Postmodernity therefore assumes that a God of "Love" cannot permit any suffering. The truth is that God is love - but He is also holy, just and merciful. In addition, few people see that much of the world's suffering as being caused, not directly by a loving God but directly by godless Man's denial of Bible teachings, standards and the sovereign rule in their lives of God. In fact, the horrendous Two World Wars, Stalingrad and the Holocaust should uttely convince Europeans that political ideologies which abolish God, in any form, and especially in the extreme forms of Communism and Fascism, have terrible consequences. Instead, today, we have liberalism, which is an attempt to "smother" or "blanket", (with decadence and materialism) any strongly held ideology or religious belief. It is ot widely understood that liberalism is just a continuation of 19th century German attempts to overthrow the authority of the Bible (to read a defence of the authority of the Bible today today, click here). In the case of modern Christianity, strong conviction is necessary for the moral and political regeneration of an unfruitful, callous society, to prevent it destroying the sick and defenceless, corrupting the innocent, and from standing justly with the weak and suffering which is commanded in the Word of God (the Bible).

Postmodernity also denies the value of suffering because it rejects sin and "the divine curse" which is behind human suffering (see the introduction to my other article on "Where is God in trouble?"). Postmodernity lacks the intellectual and spiritual resources to handle suffering. Modern science can prolong material life (this should be accompanied by thankfulness to God, humility and spiritual growth) - but sadly such intervention is often simply "taken for granted". Doctors use palliatives, which are surely modern "blessings" but we remember that Jesus, in His unique mission to save mankind, rejected them on the Cross.

Modernity cannot eradicate suffering. Moreover, some people complain that the "chemical kosh" prevents people working through their sufferings to gain greater depth and clarity. They miss the great blessings for which our ancestors had to endure more pain. This "taboo" on suffering is particularly difficult when people find themselves in painful situations: there is just nothing "substantial enough" in modern ideas and life to sustain them.

Some of those suffering turn to the Bible. There they find answers, which seem like "manna in the Wilderness". Out from Bible's teaching on suffering emanates the true character of a wise, all-seeing and holy God who knows all about human suffering, partly because he experienced its evil, on the Cross. There are hundreds of texts in the Bible about how God understands and uses suffering for His own purposes. Of course, the Bible does not condone human suffering caused by bombs, cruelty, coldness or selfishness. Suffering is an evil thing. But God patiently tries to bring evildoers to repentance, condemns the unrepentent wicked and completely heals, ultimately in Eternity, if not in this life, even life's worst wounds, losses and tragedies.

Here is a representative selection of Bible Texts on suffering:

1) Suffering is the consequence of the Fall of Man (which was the result of sin) and the curse of God on His Creation due to human disobedience

Man's rebellion against God's laws is often the main agent in his own suffering
Has thou not procured this until thyself in that thou hast forsaken the Lord the God?" Jeremiah 2.17

Man must expect suffering due to the Fall of Man and the curse of God on Man
"Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards" Job 5.1

The Fall brought the curse of death on Mankind:
The days of our years are three score and ten and if by reason of strength they be four score years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow, for it is soon cut off and we fly away Psalm 90.10

Work becomes hard and without reward
"For all his days are sorrows and his travail is grief" Ecc 2.23

Preaching the gospel bring rejections and suffering
"That no man should be moved by these afflictions, for you yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto" 1 Thess 3.3

2) Nothing material can escape suffering caused by the Fall of Man

"For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain , even we ourselves groad within ourselves waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies" Romans 8 20-22

3) The Consequences of the Fall
On woman: "I shall greatly multiply thy sorow and thy conception, thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall ruleover thee" Genesis 3.16
On Man: "In the sweat of the face shalt thou eat thy bread" Genesis 3.16
On both: "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin: and so death passed upon all men for all have sinned" Romans 5.12

4) Suffering can be the result of Man's rebellions and sin against God
Sin results in suffering - "I have wounded thee with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of this iniquity" Jeremiah 30.14
Sin results in pain - "They that plough iniquity reap the same" Job 4.8
Sin results in lifelong suffering - "His bones are full of the sin of his youth which shall lie down with him in the dust" Job 20.11
The person who sins makes a trap for himself - "He is...fallen into the ditch which he made" Psalm 7.15
Sin results in negative outcomes - "He that soweth iniquity, soweth vanity" Psalm 22.8
Sin results in alienation from God and others - "Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death because they rebelled against the words of God" Psalm 107.10
Sin results in bitterness of heart - "This is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart" Jeremiah 4.18
God chastens those who sin using others - "If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men" 2 Samuel 7.14
God punishes those he loves less than they deserve - "Thou our God hast punished us les than our sins deserve" Ezra 9.13
God delivers those who pierce themselves through sins - "Many times hast thou delivered them according to thy mercies" Nehemiah 9.28
God's punishment for sin destroys a person's youthful beauty and pleasing appearance - "when with rebules thou dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away"
God brings punishment on young people who do not obey him - "If his children forsake the law, then I will visit them with the rod" Psalm 89.30
God punishes those who covet and take what belongs to others - "For the iniquity of his covetousness I was wroth and smote him" Isaiah 57.16

5) Affliction cannot atone for sin
Only the Cross can deal with sin: "For all this, his anger is not turned away"

6) Afflictions are often severe and painful
God can bring suffering that does not lead to death -"The Lord has chastened me sore but he has not given me over to death" Psalm 118.18
Suffering is characteristic of Christ and of the martyrs and saints -"These are those that come out of the great tribulation" Rev 7.14
The Apostle Paul fell ill - "We despaired even of life" 2 Cor 1.8
Suffering was shared by Christ - "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trials which is to try you, but rejoice in as much as you are partakers of the suffering of Christ that when his glory shall be revealedyou may be glad also with exceeding joy" 1 Peter 4.12

7) Afflictions are less than we deserve
God limits afflictions - "Thou hast punished less than our sins deserve" Ezra 9.13
God has mercy on those who belong to him - "For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy towards those that fear him. He has not dealth with us as our sins deserve" Psalm 103
God has compassion on suffering - "It is of the Lord's mervies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not" Lam 3.22

8) God has compassion on suffering
God delivers from suffering - "Many times did he deliver them" Psalm 106.43
God is a Covenant God in relation to suffering - "He regarded their afflication and he remembered for them his covenant and repented according to his mercies" Psalm 106.46
God with his people in suffering - "For I am with thee to save thee" Jer 30.11
God halts suffering - Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more" Nahum 1.12
God upholds the spirit in suffering - "We are troubled on every side,yet not distressed, we are preplexed but not in despair. Persecuted but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed" 2 Cor 4

9) Suffering often results in good
God can turn evil into a tool to save people - "You thought evil against me but God meant it for good....to save many people alive" Genesis 50.20
Affliction results in spiritual growth - "The more they afflicted them the more they grew" Ex 1.12
He leads through the "terrible wilderness" to humble and do good - "He led thee through that great terrible wilderness...fiery serpents and scorpoins that he might humble and test them to do thee good at the latter end" Deut 8.15
Good results from divine chastening - "I will set my eyes upon them for good: build them up not pull them down" Jer 24.6
God brings people into covenant with Him - "I will cause you to pass under the rod and bring you into the bond of covenant" Ezekial 20.37
God uses suffering to make holy - "For they for a few days chastened us after their own plaseure but he for our profit, that we might be partakers in his holiness" Heb 12.11
Suffering is grievous but produces righteousness - "Now no chastening seemeth joyous but grievous, but afterwards yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness" Heb 12.12
Enduring suffering produces eventual joy - "We count them happy which endure" James 5.11
The Prophets (the elect) endured - "Take the Prophets as an example of suffering affliction" James 5.10
Things end well due to the efficacious intervention of God: "He maketh sore and bindeth up. he woundeth and his hand make whole " Job 5.18
All suffering is only a temporary state for believers : "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" Psalm 30.5
Exile and apparent losses may be for the long-term good of people: "I have sent out of this land, people for their good" Jer. 24.5

10) Suffering is intended to withdraw from sin
Suffering makes people obey God
- "Before I was afflicted I went astray: but have I kept your Word" Psalm 119.67

11) Suffering leads us to confess our sins
The pain is more than the desire for sin and thus cures it - "I have borne chastisement: I will not sin anymore" Job 34.31
Obstinacy blocks healing - "When I kept silent my bones waxed old through my roaring" Psalm 32.13
The return of the Prodigal - "I will arise and go to my father and say "Father I have sinned against you" Luke 15.16

12) Suffering bring sinners to (or back to) God
God will respond to repentance : "If my people which are called by my name shall humble themselve sand pray and seek my face then will I hear from heaven" 11 Chron 7.14
People return to God when in trouble - "When he slew them, then they sought him and they returned and inquired early after God" Psalm 78.34
Healing comes from returning to God - "Come let us return to the Lord: for he hath torn and he will heal me. He hath smitten and he will bind us up, and after two days he will revive us again "Hosea 6.1

13) Suffering leads us to real prayer
God listens to the prayers of the suffering: "When they cried unto thee, thou heardest them" Neh 9.27

14) Suffering is to humble our arrogance and pride
God wants his people to be humble "The Lord led thee....to humble thee" Deut 8.3
God will forgive those who are humble before Him "If my people which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear them from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" 2 Chron 14
Pride leads to foolishness which in turn leads to self-inflicted suffering "Fools because of their transgressions are afflicted" Psalm 107.17
Pride comes before a fall and final desolation " Therefore he brought down their heart with labour. They fell down and there was none to help." Psalm 107.12
Misery humbles the human soul "Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall, and my soul hath them still in remembrance and is humbled in me." Lamentations 3.19
God humbled the Apostle Paul with a *thorn in the flesh* to keep him from spiritual pride in his great visions "There was given me a thorn in the flesh to buffet me, lest I would be exalted beyond measure" 2 Cor 12.17

15) Suffering helps to prevent backsliding from salvation and God
Pain counters the attractions of temptation:
"I have borne chastisement. I will not offend anymore" Job 34.31
Suffering is God's discipline: "And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity...that the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, neither be polluted with all their transgressions" Ezekiel 14.11

16) Suffering teaches us the will of God
Suffering opens the eyes to the blessing of the Word of God: "Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord and teachest out of the Word" Psalm 94.12
Suffering being obedience to the written Word of God: "Before I was afflicated I went astray but now I have kept your Word" Psalm 119
Suffering brings wisdom, founded on the Word of God: "The Lord's voice crieth unto the city and the man of wisdom shall see the name: hear ye the rod and who hath appointed it" Micah 6.9

17) To test faith and obedience to God
God tests men and women who love him, particularly the most wise and faithful: "God did tempt Abraham" Genesis 22. 1
God tests man to humble him, by showing up the weaknesses of the heart, below the "mask" of self righteousness "to humble thee and test thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether though would keep his commandments" Heb 11.17
God uses even evil instruments, to chastise his own, even foreign nations: "I may test Israel whether they will keep in the ways of the Lord, to walk therein as their fathers did keep it, or not" Judges 2.22
God is the refiner of silver, removing "dross" (worthless attributes which dull the metal) at high temperature: "For thou O God hast tried us: thou hast tried us as silver is tried...thou laid affliction upon our loins but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place" Psalm 66 11-12
God tests his people to show how deep their obedience and love is to Him: "And they were to test Israel to know whether they would hearken to the commandments of the Lord"
God wants truth in the inmost parts and may use suffering to bring it out: "Behold, I shall melt them and try them: for how shall I do for the daughter of my people? Their tongue is an arrow shot out: it speakest deceit. One speakest peaceably to his neighbour with his mouth but in his heart he layeth in wait. Shall I not visit them for these things? They are not valiant for truth upon the earth and they know not me". Jeremiah 9
Faith which is proved genuine in the fire glorifies God: "That the trial of your faith being much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried in fire might be found to the praise, honour and glory of God at the appearing Jesus Christ" 1 Peter 6.7
The test of faith leads to the crown of Eternal Life: "Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer. Behold the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried. Be thou faithful unto death and I shall give you the crown of life" Revelations 2.10

18) Suffering demonstrates whether we are really committed to the narrow way of the Cross, or the gospel seed has fallen "on rocky ground"
Seed which has fallen on rocky hearts has no foundation in times of trouble:
"They on the rock are they which when they hear, receive the Word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of tempation fall away" Luke 8.13 "Yet hath he not root in himself. but endureth for while: for when tribulation or presecurtion ariseth because of the Word, by and by he is offended" Matthew 13.21 "And have no root in themselves and so endure but for a time: afterwards, when allifcation or persecution ariseth, for the Word's sake, immediately they are offened" Mark 4.17

19) To test and exhibit our sincerity
Suffering exhibits truth and separates those with this saving attribute:
Satan said of Job "Touch all that he hath and he will curse thee (God) to they face and the Lord said until Satan "Behold all he hath is in they power : only upon himself put not firther thine hand" Job 1.11-12".....but save his life" Job 2.6

20) Suffering reveals and tests the quality of our hearts
God tests to reveal the heart:
"And thou shalt remember all the way the Lord thy God led you...to humble thee, to prove three, to know what was in thine heart" Deut 8.2
God tests by apparently "leaving them" alone so that when his blessing comes, it comes as a kind of reward: "In the business of the ambassadors of Babylong. God left him, to try him that he night know all that was in his heart" 2 Chron 31.32 And Hezekiah prospered in all his works (v 31)

21) To purify our hearts from self-will and self-justification
The pure in heart see God:
" Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God"
Job knows that maintaining faith in suffering causes him to change into someone more valuable: "But he knowest the way that I have taken: when He hath tested me I shall come forth as gold" Job 23.10
Rich rewards (which are spiritual in the New Testament) are reserved for the pure in heart: Thou hast tried us as silver is tried. Thou broughtest us into the net: thou laidst affliction upon our loins; we went through fire and water but thou broughtest us into a wealthy place" Psalm 66.10
What prevents us seeing God is our "tin", our sinful, worthless attributes: "And I will turn my hand upon theee and purge away all thy dross and take away all thy tin" Isaiah 1.25
God sees impurities in the metal as dirt or "filth". Sanctification is the continued act of "washing clean": "When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion" Isaiah 4.4
God refines us for His own sake too in order to ensure that God's rightful glory is not appropriated by another: "Behold I have refined thee but not as silver; I have chosen three in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it ; and I will not give my glory to another" Isaiah 48.10
God purifies the heart of self-decit and lying, because He abhors liars and "the lie": "This habitation is in the midst of deceit: through deceit they refuse to know me, saith the Lord. Therefore, I will melt them and try them; for how shall I do for the daughter of my people?" Jer 9.6
Purification of the elect during the final Tribulation: "And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them and to purge them and to make them white, even to the time of the end." Daniel 11.35
God corrupts rebels further with flattery but makes His people strong: "And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt with flatteries: but the people that do know theirGod shall be strong and do exploits" Daniel 11.33
God favours those who listen to God and try to purify their wills by the exercise of total obedience and faith: "Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand and to chasten theyelf before thy God, they words were heard" Danile 10.12
The wicked do not see what God is doing in the testing of the elect: "Many shall be purified and made white and tried....and none of the wicked shall understand. But the wise shall understand....Blessed is he that waiteth; for thou shall rest and stand in thy lot at the end of the days". Daniel 12.12
God is faithful and possesses his tried and tested people: "And I shall bring the third ("the faithful remnant") through fire and will refine them as silver is and try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name and I will hear them. I will say, This is my people: they shall say, The Lord is my God" Zech 13.9
God is the "fire" that cleanses and the "water" than cleanses: "Who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when he appearest? for he is like a refiner's fire and like the fuller's soap"
God purifies so that his people so that they can make an offering in true righteousness: "And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver and he shall purify the sons of Levi and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness".
God purifies his elect, as a parent, in loving-kindness in order to finally bless his people by making them holy: "For they (parents) verily, for a few days, chastened us after their own pleaseure: but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth joy, but grievous; nevertheless, afterwards it yieldest the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
Purification leading to holiness is the only qualification for "seeing God": "Follow peace with all men and holiness without which no man shall see God". Hebrews 12.10
God is "love" but He is also "holy fire" in the sense that He consumes all sin in his people and presence: "Our God is a consuming fire" Hebrews 12.29

21) To make us fruitful in good works
God wants fruit (fruits of the spirit, righteousness, truth, holiness and good deeds) in His servants and can appear to be almost cruel like a vinepruner, to procure more: "Every branch in me that bearest not fruit, he taketh away: and every branch that bearest fruit, He purgest it that it may bring forth more fruit" Jesus speaking in John 15.2

22) To develop patience, which is a peaceable fruit of the Holy Spirit
God listens to those who have proved they can wait patiently for him to act: "I waited patiently for the Lord: and he inclined to me Psalm 40 v1
Suffering develops patience because the remedies of pride and Man's will are put out of reach: We glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation works patient, patience, experience and expericen hope" (modern versions give "suffering develops patience, patience develops Christian character and character develops hope) Romans 5.3
Suffering makes a believer stronger in endurance: "Know this: that the trying of your faith works patience" 1 James 3
It is valueless to do evil, suffer for it (to develop patience): one must do good in the first place and suffer for it: "For what glory is it when you be buffeted for your faults, ye take it patiently: but if you do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable to God" 1 Peter 3.20

23) Suffering endured in faith is for our mental, psychological and spiritual good
The elect are fiercely physically tested, in order to be finally blessed with their own "place": "That he might test thee, to do thee good at the latter end" Deut 8.16 (Israel had passed through the terrible wilderness of scorpions, drought etc)
The elect learn wisdom which blesses them through suffering: "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes" Psalm 119.71
Inner conflicts, deepest inner suffering in the heart is healed, through suffering: "Sorrow is better than laughter for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better" Ecc. 7 2

24) Suffering (particulary painful obedience) glorifies God
Some suffering is allotted in order for God to be glorified, in relieving it: "Neither has this man sinned, not his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him" John 9.3
Jesus's death on the Cross saves repentant sinners and thereby to glorify God: "Thus spake He, signifying by what death He should glorify God" John 21.19

25) God is sovereign : He sends suffering (sometimes permitting Satanic evil to dispense it) and brings blessings
God does not evade his responsibility for creating suffering but affirms that He has the power to heal it: "I wound and I heal" Deut 32.39
God makes the proud poor and the humble rich; He humbles the proud and exalts the humble: "The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich; he bringeth low and lifteth up "1 Sam 2.7
No one has the purity of heart and wisdom to question what God, in His power, love and wisdom chooses to do: "Who will say unto Him; what doeth thou?" Job 9.12
True faith does not question its Maker who, in His wisdom, created light: "I form light and I create darkness. Woe unto him who striveth with his Maker. Shall the clay says unto him that fashioned it, What makest thou?" Isaiah 45.9
Men are made by God for His purposes which God, in His sovereignty, may not choose to reveal :"I have formed thee" Isaiah 44.21

26) God regulates the measure of suffering, in His compassion
God understands the intensity of all suffering: "For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel, that is was very bitter....nor any helper for Israel and the Lord said not he would blot out the name of Israel." 11 Kings 14.26
God can allow great suffering but only He can make it into spiritual "food": "Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure" Psalm 80.5
God carefully balances His compassionate support and the need for purification from sin: "For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee....yet will I not make an end of thee, I will correct three in measure and will not leave thee altogether unpinished" Jer 30.11
God matches the suffering to the strength of the faithful: "God will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able, that zou may be able to bear it" 2 Cor 10.13

27) God determines the duration of suffering according to His purposes
The length of suffering is determined in advance: "They shall afflict them 400 years" Genesis 15.13
The nature of the suffering is determined in advance, in relation to its duration: "And the children shall wander in the desert forty years." Numbers 14.33
God sees the end from the beginning: "For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end...and you shall seek me and find when when you search for me with all your heart" Jer 29.11

28) God sometimes hides himself in times of suffering
God does nothing for a while "Why standest thou afar off? Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?" Psalm 10.1
God appears to forget for a while: "How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? Forever? How long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?" Psalm 13.1
God appears to avoid communicating with believers or to be asleep: "Why sleepest thou, O Lord? Wherefore hidest thou thy face and forgettest our affliction and our oppression?" Isaiah 44.22

This list continues in Part II (click on this link to access)