Why do Christians suffer?

One of the most important chapters of the book of Romans is undoubtedly chapter 5. In this chapter we can learn the secret of how to be able to rejoice in any situation. In this passage the word rejoice appears three times in verses 2, 3, and 11. This word is key to understand the whole fifth chapter of Romans since here Paul is revealing to us the results of having been justified by faith (the central theme of chapter 4). Thus, this chapter helps us to understand the privilege we Christians have to rejoice in our spiritual position. Our faith in the work of Christ Jesus on the cross enables us to rejoice in our future hope, to rejoice in the midsts of our sufferings, and to rejoice in God Himself. The love of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit within us (Romans 5:5), and the work of salvation that Christ accomplished on the cross (Romans 5:11) allow us now to enjoy peace with God and instant and continual access to His Throne in Heaven.

Now, one thing is to rejoice in our hope of glory and in our mighty God, but I know that for almost all of us to rejoice in the midsts of sufferings and afflictions could be really burdensome. I personally think that one of the most challenging questions we pastors receive quite often is the question: Why do Christians suffer? Or in a more personal way: Why has God allowed this to happen? I’ve been there so I do understand those who struggle with these interrogations.

This is a very difficult question to handle especially when it comes from someone who is suffering a great loss such as the death of a relative or a terminal illness. Now the reality is that many people come to Christ with the notion that since God loves us He will never allow us to go through any trial, crisis, or difficult moment. Our Western philosophy has greatly influenced our theology to the point that today we could find thousands of Christians in America who incorrectly believe that God’s desire is just to make their lives easy and comfortable. But the Scriptures teaches us something different.

Scriptures clearly teaches that God loves those who are His children, and He “works all things together for good” for us (Romans 8:28). Trusting in this promise we can know then that the present afflictions and tribulations He allows in our lives are just part of the working together of all things for good. Therefore, for us who believe in Christ Jesus, all trials and tribulations must have a divine purpose. And what is that divine purpose? As in all things, God’s ultimate purpose for us is to grow more and more into the image of His Son Jesus” (Romans 8:29).

This is the goal of the Christian, and everything in life, including the trials and tribulations, is designed to enable us to reach that goal. When we realize that this is the true purpose of our lives then we will be able to rejoice in God in any circumstance.