Suffering largely came about because of the fall of man. Indeed, since “all creation groans” as it waits for its redemption you could say everything fell. But God seemed to have a plan beyond simply reacting to our sin and its resulting circumstances (suffering is mostly due to this). The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil existed in the Garden before the Fall. It follows then that evil existed before the Fall. Evil itself is outside the scope of our talk but suffering is surely a result of evil. Might God have used suffering to teach us about evil?
Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9)
The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)
To push the unbeliever towards God
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath (Romans 2:4-5)
To season or mature the believer
4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. 5 This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. (2 Thessalonians 1:4-6)
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (! Peter 5:8)
Types of suffering?
Man suffers in various ways. Some of it he brings on himself and sometimes it is God directed (or at least God tolerated). Sometimes it appears to be neither but just a random act of “fate.”
And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”(Luke 23:41)
There will be tribulation and distress [a]for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, (Romans 2:9)
The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.(Exodus 3:7)
Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? (Luke 13:4)
Responses to suffering
Man can respond many ways to suffering most of which depend on whether or not he believes in God. But even if he believes in God the quality of his faith and his choices further affect the believer’s response to suffering. As a person grows and matures the perception of and response to suffering also change.
“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed….Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night
Loss of faith
The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. (Matthew 13:20-21)
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.(Philippians 3:8-11)
Giving thanks in all situations
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. (Philippians 4:12)