Christians affirm that somehow this suffering heals the rift between God and man. Proverbs 3:11-12 says: "My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves as a father the son he delights in" (cf. 2, 8, 17-18). God established a moral order in creation, with the result that retributive justice is meted out in life experience. On the one hand, suffering is the consequence of the flawed nature of creation. The most obvious meanings of the word are the following: (1) The commonest meaning perhaps in the English Versions of the Bible is "to permit," "to allow," "to give leave to": "Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away" (Mark 10:4). See more. He also interprets his impending fate as the fulfillment of the destiny of the suffering servant ( Matt 20:28 ; = Mark 10:45 ; Luke 22:37 ). Suffering forces us to turn from trust in our own resources to living by faith in God’s resources. A. Sanders, Suffering as Divine Discipline in the Old Testament and Post-Biblical Judaism. The righteous are urged, therefore, to be patient in their suffering and to wait for the eschatological judgment and salvation of God, at which time they will receive the blessing due to them, whereas the wicked, who are often the oppressors of the righteous, will be punished and destroyed (cf. Israel's covenant at Sinai is a special historical manifestation of the principle of retributive justice. That sometimes the righteous suffer for no apparent reason is the thesis of the Book of Job. The church is not meant to be a loosely bound association of functional Lone Rangers. Renike quotes author Rankin Wilbourne who … Don't waste time. 3.632-51; 1 QH. When we are in a state of anguish that offers little respite, the natural inclination is to turn toward a higher source for help. Bow under His loving hand and recognize that above the clouds the sun is shining. We'll send you an email with steps on how to reset your password. In Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering, Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and chairman of the Redeemer City to City church planting network, tackles the subjects of grief, suffering and evil, and why he believes Christianity is humanity's greatest means of making sense of, and utilizing for good the dark moments everyone … If the righteous do suffer it must be for a reason, which functions as a valid exception to the moral principle that the righteous prosper and the wicked suffer. INTRODUCTION. Although the suffering servant seems not to have played a major role in shaping the conceptualities of the extant literature of the intertestamental period, the notion of vicarious suffering and death does crop up now and then, paralleling what is found in Daniel 11:35. When the righteous do suffer, the need for theodicy arises: in order for God to be exonerated from the charge of being unjust, justification for the apparently anomalous situation of the suffering of the righteous must be found. All Christians have or will suffer (John 16:33; Acts 14:22). Bibliography. For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement. 23:29; 1QS 4 11QMelch ). 10:1-2; 13:9-10; 14:1; 16:1-11; Judith 8:27; 1QH 2:13-14; 9:23-24). Collective Suffering. Suffering can draw our interests toward the true God. 8 ). The Apostle Paul experienced various faces of suffering (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). Sometimes, the application of the principle is delayed, so that the righteous suffer for a period of time before vindication. The meaning is this: God is gain. In the Old Testament, nations fall under God's judgment for their disregard of God's will. Paul also believes that God disciplines believers in order to bring about repentance ( 1 Cor 5:1-8 ; 2 Cor 11:17-33 ; 1 Tim 1:20 ). Please enter your email address associated with your Salem All-Pass account, then click Continue. Or. Christians can experience “many troubles”—mental, physical, emotional or spiritual suffering (Psalm 34:19). And what is the link between experiencing suffering and equipping for ministry? Bibliography Information God cursed the ground, so that human beings can stay alive only through much toil; the pain of childbirth is greatly increased for all women ( Gen 3:16-19 ); death and all the suffering attendant upon dying have entered the world ( Gen 2:17 ). When someone in our church is hurting, the church tends to that member’s wounds. The idea that national suffering is consequent on disobedience to God is continued in the New Testament. Individual sins also have intergenerational consequences. Yet, Mark’s Gospel, written around 65 to 70 AD, focuses on Jesus’ “suffering servanthood.” Christians believe that we are “saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus.” The key is to put both together. As you resolve to grow and change this year, remember that good intentions without diligence will fail. The Christian Meaning of Suffering. 3:29-36; 2 Apoc. The Old Testament, intertestamental literature, and the New Testament present two perspectives on human suffering. The period of time in which the temple is defiled and the righteous are oppressed is predetermined, established according to the divine timetable. Sol. The individual righteous person is at the mercy of the larger historical designs of God. Bar. In this regard, the Book of Esther stands in contrast to Lamentations. Jesus warns that Israel's rejection of the kingdom of God will lead to the visitation of God's wrath on the nation ( Matt 12:38-45 ; = Luke 11:29-32 ; Matt 21:33-46 ; = Mark 12:1-12 ; = Luke 20:9-19 ; Matt 23:33-38 ; Luke 13:6-8 ; 19:41-44 ). In our own suffering, Christ allows us to share in the deepest sign of his love. 10:1; T. Levi 18:12; T. Judah 25:3; T. Zebulon 9:8; T. Dan 5:10-11; 6:3; 1 Enoch 1; 10:13-16; 54:6; 55; 69:28-29; 90:24; Jub. Most people experience suffering at some time in their life. Most people in the world have no experience of lasting joy in their lives. The Cross is a great contradiction. The words and phrases in the Bible expressing this concept are too numerous to list. Sol. Suffering as the Consequence of the Flawed Nature of Creation. In the Old Testament, the intertestamental literature, and the New Testament, suffering more frequently is causally linked to the sins of the descendants of the first man and woman. Each of these are different ways that we can suffer, and when suffering comes, often several of these types of suffering are involved. The application of God's retributive justice is postponed, so that the righteous suffer unjustly in this life. "For such a time as this" God raises up Queen Esther to bring deliverance to Israel. It is designed to build our trust in the Almighty, but suffering requires the right response if it is to be successful in accomplishing God’s purposes. A cornerstone of early rabbinic theology is the view that God manifests his mercy to the righteous in this age, in that he allows their suffering, when received with equanimity, to expiate the guilt generated by previous sins (Sipre Deut 6:5 ; [32] Mek. In the Beatitudes Jesus teaches that the appearance of the kingdom of God will bring an eschatological reversal, so that the righteous who now suffer will no longer ( Matt 5:3-12 ; Luke 6:20-26 ). This article first appeared at The Age. One of the counterintuitive truths about suffering is that it prepares Christians for more glory. A great variety of Hebrew and Greek expressions, too large to be here enumerated, have been translated by "suffering" and other forms derived from the same verb. 1 Peter 2:9 ). When we are hurting, the “God of … 1-3; 2 Thess 1:4-10 ; Heb 10:32-34 ; James 5:11 ; 1 Peter 2:18-20 ; 3:13-4:19 ; Rev 2:10 ; 4-22 ). Jub. It could also happen that the sin of a minority or even one individual within Israel could have consequences for the nation. The fate of the nation as a corporate entity is bound up intricately with the moral decisions of its individual members. Copyright © 2021, Bible Study Tools. Suffering happens in community. Nineveh faces imminent judgment on account of the collective guilt of its inhabitants; national repentance forestalls the wrath of God (Book of Jonah). What you are experiencing from God, you can give away in increasing measure to others. Each of these are different ways that we can suffer, and when suffering comes, often several of these types of suffering are involved. (Luke 13:2). The former is a testimony to God's protection granted to his obedient people against their enemies. Apart from an individual's suffering because of his or her belonging to a nation under God's judgment or on account of the sins of a previous generation, the Old Testament (with some exceptions), the intertestamental texts, and the New Testament portray God as dealing with each human being on the principle of retributive justice. The New Testament also assumes that creation is flawed as a result of the activity of Satan and allied spirits, who wreak havoc on human existence (e.g., Mark 9:14-27 ; = Luke 9:37-43 ). 17 T. Mos. ON THE CHRISTIAN MEANING OF HUMAN SUFFERING . Similarly, Pompey's intervention in the internal affairs of the Jewish nation, which brought about much suffering and death to some Jews, was understood as precipitated by national sin (cf. On the one hand, suffering is the consequence of the flawed nature of creation. The Many Meanings of the Cross. (2) "To experience," "to go through,"' "to endure": "I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him" (Matthew 27:19). “Early Christian speakers and writers not only argued vigorously that Christianity’s teaching made more sense of suffering, they insisted that the actual lives of Christians proved it. 12:13-14 ). Why now? Suffering can come because of foolish choices. 1. 27-28). As in the Old Testament, it is sometimes asserted that, although the Gentile nations are God's instruments of discipline, they are nonetheless in line for similar treatment at the hands of God. The Bible even tells us why we suffer. It is much easier to appreciate the glory of Jesus’ resurrection than his painful crucifixion. Paul interprets his own suffering as a means of ensuring that he be ever conscious of his own weakness, so that he remembers always that the power at work in him is from God and not himself and so that he is not deluded into relying on his own power ( 2 Cor 1:8-10 ; 4:7-12 ). Although his comforters defend the principle of retributive justice and conclude that Job cannot be innocent, as he claims, the reader knows that they are wrong: Job speaks truly about his moral condition. Achan, for instance, disobeys God, but the whole nation is defeated in battle as a consequence of his disobedience ( Joshua 7 ). Retributive justice is sometimes conceived as the working out of a moral law imminent in creation, as in the Book of Proverbs. A new element in the intertestamental sources is the notion that the judgment of Israel's Gentile oppressors takes place as part of Israel's eschatological vindication (cf. Suffering is a tool God uses to get our attention and to accomplish His purposes in our lives. Get a verified writer to help you with The Meaning of Suffering in Buddhism and Christianity. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:4 that God “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”. Thus, while Christians face the same psychological and emotional difficulties in the face of suffering as everyone else, we should remember Blaise Pascal’s words that “suffering is the natural state for a Christian.” Proud member The church is meant to be a refuge for those suffering. My dear Christian friend, if you are today suffering at the hand of God and you have asked a thousand times, “Why?” I beg of you to be patient and quiet before God, and listen to the still, small voice. But the Old Testament also gives evidence of the irregular working out of the principle of retributive justice. Unlike the Old Testament and intertestamental texts, however, the New Testament understands the flawed nature of creation to have been at least partially rectified, inasmuch as the influence of Satan and allied spirits on it has been curtailed through the appearance, death, and resurrection of the Messiah. Suffering is the basic element that makes up the negative valence of affective phenomena.The opposite of suffering is pleasure or happiness.. 23 T. Mos. Each of us knows firsthand what it means to suffer as a result of … In doing so, God didn’t take away suffering — He transformed it. And neither does it mean that Scripture doesn’t tell us how to think about our suffering now. . The attitude of the one afflicted should be that of acceptance and even joy that God would relate to him or her as a father who disciplines his children (cf. But there are some cases of the suffering of the righteous impervious to theodicy. In the Old Testament, that the principle of retributive justice is operative in the existence of each human being comes to expression most clearly in Proverbs and Psalms. At other times, the correlation between righteousness and longevity/prosperity in this life breaks down altogether. This reveals that there is another meaning to suffering. The Maccabean crisis was interpreted as resulting from the sin of the nation; Antiochus's persecution was really God's discipline of an unruly people (cf. The three explanations for the suffering of the righteous individual found in the Old Testament eschatological, remedial, expiatory also occur in the New Testament. Jesus also warns his disciples that their suffering will be an eschatological necessity; until the consummation of the kingdom of God, those who follow him and especially those who proclaim him will experience resistance and hostility from those on the outside (or, to use Johannine terminology, "the world"), especially during the period just prior to the end (cf. But how? At other times, it is the direct judgment of God manifesting itself through such things as drought, disease, or foreign invasion. God saved the world by taking on a human body, living a real life and experiencing real suffering and death. General Editor. There is a fourth interpretation of the suffering of the righteous individual that comes to expression in the New Testament. 23; 1 Enoch 100:1-3; 107; Sib. Pope John Paul II used the Scriptures in Salvifici Doloris to enter into the Christian meaning of human suffering. Jesus understands his healings and exorcisms as an assault on the kingdom of Satan ( Matt 12:25-29 ; = Mark 3:23-27 ; = Luke 11:17-22 ; Luke 10:18-20 ; John 12:31 ; 16:11 ). Salem Media Group. In line with the eschatological promises of the prophets, many intertestamental sources anticipate a time in the future when Israel will be restored to the land in a state of prosperity, sometimes with the help of a messianic figure. (p17) And... 'For suffering cannot be transformed and changed by the grace from outside, but from within. In two passages outside the Gospels it is explicit that Jesus' death is the fulfillment of the vicarious and expiatory death of the servant ( Acts 8:32-33 ; 1 Peter 2:21-25 ). Dr. Kreeft does not give easy answers to the problem, but he examines suffering from a number of different perspectives, "clues" to meaning in the face of suffering. Either you have, you are, or you will — “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). He has kept you through pain; he has reshaped you more into his image. Three types of justification are offered in the Old Testament for the suffering of the righteous: eschatological, remedial, and expiatory. In these two verses, Paul lists several types of suffering — mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. Suffering in the Christian life is not random or arbitrary, but our suffering is given greater meaning when we remember that Jesus also suffered. The book of Job shows us there can be two ways to respond to suffering: one that curses God because of suffering and one that praises God, even in the midst of suffering (Job 2:9–10). It's a symbol of death, but so much more. Suffering in this world is a stone-cold reality in Christianity -- Jesus Christ Himself, God Incarnate, suffered betrayal, indignity, torture and a grueling death. We have been given the privilege not only of trusting him but also of suffering for him. Such suffering is called a suffering for God's or Christ's sake (Jeremiah 15:15; Acts 9:16; Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 1:12). Suffering is the bearing or undergoing of pain or distress. He rose in that body. All Christians suffer. He has infused suffering with divine meaning, not human meaninglessness. But God brings suffering in our lives for the sake of our eternal joy — yes, even glory. On the other hand, a person's suffering is the direct consequence of his or her violation of God's laws. Generally, in the Old Testament, God deals with human beings on the principle of retributive justice. Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I. Article Images Copyright © 2021 Getty Images unless otherwise indicated. A woman "had suffered many things of many physicians" (Mark 5:26). Human suffering is thus redeemed. All of our resources exist to guide you toward everlasting joy in Jesus Christ. In so doing he dismisses the easy answers and constructs a much more nuanced, complex but satisfying approach. Barney Zwartz is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Public Christianity, and a former Fairfax journalist. The New Jerusalem of no tears and no pain, of no mourning and no death, hasn’t arrived yet (Revelation 21:1, 4). Suffering, or pain in a broad sense, may be an experience of unpleasantness and aversion associated with the perception of harm or threat of harm in an individual. 16:12; 18:13-14; 22:27-23:3; Wis. 3:5; Pss. Suffering Has Many Faces. It Reminds Us of the Reality of Sin. In addition, a fourth explanation, unique to it, appears: Paul writes that suffering has the effect of ensuring his dependence on the power of God in his apostolic labors. The age/world to come for the righteous is to be an existence of blessedness, without suffering. The apostle Paul wrote, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9). You are learning both the tenderness and the clarity necessary to help sanctify another person’s deepest distress. In the intertestamental literature the three explanations for the suffering of the righteous found in the Old Testament also appear. The Book of James similarly identifies trials as a means of engendering holiness ( 1:2-3 ), as does 1 Peter 1:3-9. See also Discipline; Ecclesiastes, Theology of; Job, Theology of; Justice; Persecution; Providence of God. This fellowship in suffering unites us with the saints of God in all times (James 5:10), and is indeed a fellowship with the Lord Himself (Philippians 3:10), who uses this discipline to mold us more and more according to His character. Bar. God is gain. Suffering belongs to the discipline of all Christ's followers (Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:7; Galatians 3:4; Philippians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:12; 3:12; James 5:10; 1 Peter 2:20; 3:14,17; 4:1,13,16; 5:10). Often human wickedness and the persecution of the righteous are expected to intensify greatly just prior to the final judgment and salvation of God (cf. Here the clearest references are to the suffering or passion of Christ, which indeed includes the enduring of untold hardships and affliction, all of which culminate in His vicarious death for man (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31; 9:12; Luke 9:22; 17:25; 22:15; 24:26,46; Acts 3:18; 17:3; 26:23; 1 Peter 3:18). In this worldview, the appearance of suffering in human experience is not random, but has its causal antecedents in an individual's or community's moral decisions. the King James Version, "For ye suffer fools gladly (the Revised Version (British and American) "ye bear with the foolish gladly"), seeing ye yourselves are wise" (2 Corinthians 11:1,9). 50-51). But just because we experience suffering as we await the redemption of our bodies, it doesn’t mean that our suffering is random or without purpose. In Jesus’ announcements of suffering the Christian understanding of suffering is clearly expressed: suffering is not the final aim and end in itself in the realization of human destiny; it is the gateway to resurrection, to rebirth, to new creation. Christianity believes in a benevolent God who created the universe and all things in it. In the Servant Songs of Isaiah, the suffering and death of the servant has a vicarious and expiatory purpose ( Isa 53 ). That’s the meaning of our suffering. The meaning of suffering is given us above all in Jesus’ suffering which is his love for us, for our redemption. "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss" (1 Corinthians 3:15; also Philippians 3:8). Daniel 11:35 is another example of the suffering of the righteous having an expiatory effect. At the Last Supper he understands himself as the eschatological Passover lamb ( Matt 26:26-28 ; = Mark 14:22-24 ; Luke 22:19-20 ). also the Book of Daniel). Suffering forces us to turn from trust in our own resources to living by faith in God’s resources. Job suffers, yet he is righteous. David Powlison answers this way: When you’ve passed through your own fiery trials, and found God to be true to what he says, you have real help to offer. Why now? The experience of physical pain and/or mental distress. Other common phrases are "to suffer affliction" (1 Thessalonians 3:4; Hebrews 11:25, the Revised Version (British and American) "share ill-treatment"), "to suffer hardship" (2 Timothy 2:9), "to suffer adversity" (Hebrews 13:3 the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) "to be ill-treated"), "to suffer dishonor" (the King James Version "shame," Acts 5:41), "to suffer violence," (Matthew 11:12), "to suffer wrong" (Acts 7:24), "to suffer terror" (Psalms 88:15), "to suffer shipwreck" (2 Corinthians 11:25), "to suffer hunger" (Psalms 34:10; Proverbs 19:15), "to suffer thirst" (Job 24:11). Jesus interprets his death as expiatory and vicarious. Christians still suffer as we wait for Jesus to return, but none of our suffering is random or without purpose. Paul attributes the tyranny of death, "the last enemy" ( 1 Cor 15:26 ), to the sin of Adam, the effects of which reach to all human beings and are nullified by the death and resurrection of Christ ( Rom 5:12-17 ; 1 Cor 15:20-22 ). (6) "To suffer death." The wicked, on the other hand, he destroys. Later, in the context of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, the deuteronomistic principle that invasion by foreign powers is God's chastisement of Israel for its sins is reiterated (2 Apoc. The people are placed conditionally under the Torah: obedience brings blessing, while disobedience brings destruction or exile (Deut. (Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, 166). Paul confronts that type of thinking when he writes, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Suffering definition, the state of a person or thing that suffers. Likewise, many psalms are premised on the notion that Yahweh blesses those who are righteous those who desire to obey him and habitually do so and protects those who take refuge in him. The Book of Judges, similarly, interprets Israel's suffering through foreign domination as stemming from national disobedience to the law ( 2:6-23 ). 9:6-10:1), and the Qumran community understood its own suffering as expiatory (1 QS. This may necessitate, however, that God discipline the nation when disobedient to the Torah, so that at times it may appear that God favors the nations more than Israel. Cities are also threatened with judgment on account of their rejection of Jesus or his emissaries ( Matt 11:20-24 ; = Luke 10:13-15 ). Suffering is not in itself virtuous, nor is it a sign of holiness. also Psalm 94:12 ; Dan 11:35 ). The remedial view comes to expression most prominently in the letter to the Hebrews ( 12:3-13 ). 1915. 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