The problem of evil (discussed in the previous lesson) presents a related problem, the problem of suffering.
Many people naturally wonder why so much suffering takes place. Much of the answer is contained within the problem of evil, namely, if evil exists in this world, then we are bound to be affected by it.
However, suffering is not without purpose. In fact, suffering can strengthen us spiritually and physically. I should note here that grace causes suffering to be spiritually efficacious.
Bodily suffering can help us build strength against more intense suffering. For instance, those who are members of our military’s special forces suffer during their training to prepare them for the possibility of capture and torture. The training gives them the physical and psychological tools to deal with this.
Similarly, Christians who have been kidnapped and tortured often return home emboldened to share the faith with others.
1 Cor 12:7-10 – Jesus tells St. Paul that suffering produces strength. Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” St. Paul then writes, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Phil 3:7-11 – “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that, if possible, I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
So, we can share in Christ’s sufferings and be content with our sufferings for His sake.
Romans 5:3-5 – “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Accordingly, suffering produces endurance, character, and hope.
Romans 8:15b-17 – “When we cry, ‘Abba! Father! ’it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
Therefore, suffering results in glorification.
James 1:2-4 – “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Thus, suffering produces perfection.