Why do we suffer? How could God allow bad things to happen to good people? Join AMBrewster as he helps Christian parents teach their children the biblical purposes for suffering.
Check out 5 Ways to Support TLP.
Click here for our free Parenting Course!
Like us on Facebook.
Follow us on Instagram.
Follow us on Twitter.
Follow AMBrewster on Twitter.
Pin us on Pinterest.
Subscribe to us on YouTube.
Need some help? Write to us at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com.
Click "Read More" for today’s Episode Notes and Transcript.
Click the link below to download the PDF.
Two episodes ago we started our “Parenting Suffering Children” series. If you haven’t heard the previous shows, you’re really going to need to start there. Jumping into today’s episode with the hopes of discovering the purpose of suffering without laying the necessarily groundwork from the previous episodes will potentially leave you confused.
I don’t want that for you or your family.
So, go check out the beginning of the series, and this episode will be right here waiting for you when you’re done. That’s the beauty of evergreen parenting content. It’s not going to go out of style.
But before we jump into the material for today, please take a few moments to rate and review TLP on iTunes, Facebook, or your favorite podcast directory. It’s so helpful because it connects searching parents with this show. And it’s a blessing to TeamTLP and me. We see the reviews left on iTunes and Facebook, and I can’t truly explain how encouraging they are to us.
And, if you’re a member of the TLP Family, leaving a rating and review is one of your TLP Family Challenges . . . so it’s an easy way to grow in your TLP Family awesomeness!
As always, any TLP Follower can access our free episode notes and transcripts at TakingBackTheFamily.com. I hope you’ll do that.
Okay, so let’s jump back into our look at suffering.
On Part 1 we learned the definition of suffering and found that it was subjective, inevitable, and contagious. But we also discovered that Christians suffer differently than the world because Christians are called to suffer well.
That should have erected a question mark in your mind — why can a Christian suffer so differently? So on Part 2 we looked at the God of suffering. We learned that He is holy, good, loving, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, wise, the incarnation of Truth, and trustworthy.
And it’s here that the faith of countless people through the generations has on its face. How can a God described in those ways allow suffering to exist — especially, how could He allow it to happen to “good” people?
Now, it’s not my intention to plumb the depths of this topic and provide an argument that will sufficiently put all those questions to rest. That’s not the nature of a podcast like this, and there are plenty of accessible resources that do adequately answer such questions.
You could even go to our recommended Apologetic Parenting books and find fantastic resources that would answer those questions for you and your kids.
But our focus today is not the apologetic attempt to justify the existence of suffering. We simply want to interact with God’s stated purposes for suffering so that we can believe Him and live wisely in light of God’s reality. Remember, you can’t believe what you don’t know. Our kids need to know how God uses suffering before they can believe it.
I’m going to argue that the Christian suffers well because He knows the God of suffering and because he understands the purpose of suffering. That’s obviously what we want for our kids.
Now, is it possible for a genuine Christian to not know the God of suffering that well or not understand the purpose of suffering at all? Definitely. Becoming a Christian doesn’t automatically provide you with all spiritual knowledge and understanding. Our sanctification is a process of growth.
We’re in our children’s lives because they don’t know everything, they don’t understand everything, and they don’t live in the reality of those truths in their lives. They need someone to guide them, and TLP wants to equip that someone to guide them well.
So, yes a Christian can suffer poorly if they don’t know and/or believe what they should.
We do this all the time.
So, today we’re going to practically walk through how knowing and believing the character of God and His stated purposes can help us and our family members suffer well.
There’s going to be a good amount of information, so I won’t be able to provide you a “script” on every point, but I want to start with a punch list approach to having these conversations with your kids.
So, here’s the first purpose of suffering and an example of how we can teach it to our kids:
1. Suffering helps us be holy as God is holy.
A. Work through some of the Scriptures that define and explain and illustrate God’s holiness. Help them to grasp it as best as they can. Our last episode provided some good starting points for that.
I like to use the example of a toothbrush. Likely, one toothbrush in your home is set apart to your child’s mouth, and there’s probably another one set apart to cleaning the grout in the bathtub or scrubbing the toilet or simply for the purpose of brushing their sibling’s teeth. And no one wants there to be any confusion as to which is which. The same is true of God. We need to be set apart to Him and righteousness and set apart from sin.
B. Once they’re understanding the idea, I’ll move to the application of the idea to life. A succinct application may be: “We can be thankful for anything and everything that helps us be holy.”
Support this statement by taking them to James 1:2-4. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
That idea of being “perfect and complete, lacking nothing” is another way of saying “holy.” God tells us here that trials are part of the process He uses to mature us.
Therefore, it should make sense that He would call us to experience trials joyfully because the trial is accomplishing holiness in our lives!
II Corinthians 4:17-18 unpacks this a little more: “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
The Christian is able to look past the suffering of this moment to see the far greater glory the suffering was designed to accomplish.
I may then ask something like, “So, if something helps us become holy as God is holy, wouldn’t that be a good thing?”
We can easily insert Romans 8:28-29: “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”
All things that accomplish our conformity to Christ are good things. Yes, there will be uncomfortable circumstances that happen when we love God and are working toward His purposes, but God promises that responding correctly in that discomfort will help us be more like Jesus.
C. I will then help my family member understand that a Christian will suffer differently than the world in light of these truths. The world won’t understand, but the Christian will actually see the suffering as good because it’s helping us be more like God. This is why we can be joyful in the midst of the suffering! And why wouldn’t we if we truly believe what God has said?
D. Then, when the troubles come, I can help my child work through these truths practically. For example — and I’m going to deliberately use a small inconvenience to illustrate this because all trials and struggles are applicable — let’s say that my child’s iPad has frozen at an important moment in their game. All of the progress up until this point has been lost, and they are angry or sad or both.
First, I’ll want to help them engage their thinking brains instead of their feeling brains. This will look like me drawing their minds to the truths about God we’ve already learned.
I’ll ask them questions like, “I know this is inconvenient, but is God still good?” “What does the Bible say God’s trying to accomplish through this experience?” “How does James describe how you should be responding to this situation?”
I hope this examples provide you guidance as you teach these concepts to your children and lead them to a true understanding.
Again, I’m not going to be able to take the same amount of time with the rest of these character traits and wise responses. My main goal is simply to provide material and trust you to teach it to your kids and apply it to their lives.
Of course, if you have any questions or struggles along the way, the TLP Counselors and I are available to help. One of the things I do often — and truly enjoy doing — is being a Parenting Coach. I work with parents all the time who ask me to speak into their parenting. The world has their consultants and the life coaches, how much more important is it for Christians to surround themselves with a multitude of counselors?
Back to our list. Biblically speaking, suffering was designed by God to make us holy. This means . . .
2. Suffering reveals God’s love for us.
“Okay, Aaron. This is a little much. I can understand how it purifies us, but you’re saying it’s actually an act of love?”
That’s exactly right. It has to be.
First, we all deserve to be in hell. Anything more comfortable than hell is an act of mercy.
Second, if God didn’t love us, He wouldn’t want what’s best for us. He wouldn’t want to save us and sanctify us to Himself. If He didn’t love us, suffering would indeed have a purpose, and that sole purpose would be our pain.
But God lovingly redeems our suffering by turning it into a blessing!
Third, even the suffering that comes as a result of our sin grows from God’s love. Hebrews 12:6, “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.” This is a quote from Proverbs 3:11-12, “My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord Or loathe His reproof, For whom the Lord loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.”
In Psalm 119:75, David cries out, “I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” And in the book of Revelation, Jesus Himself says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.”
It’s clear that the suffering we endure because of our sinful choices is an act of love from God to turn us back to Him, and the suffering we endure that is is a result of someone else’s sinful choices is designed to continue our growth in Christlikeness.
God never allows anything to come into our lives that is not a direct result of His love for us. He wants our absolute best in life. To not work toward our best interest would be unloving. So, if the best thing for us is to be conformed to the image of Christ, and experiencing trials will help us do that, then it would be unloving for God to keep us from those trials.
This is an important Truth we need to help our kids know, understand, and believe.
And when it comes to love, we can also add that suffering gives Christians the opportunity to show love to others. In Part 1 of this study we learned that suffering is contagious in part because God wants suffering to be an experience of love.
II Corinthians 1:3-4 explains: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
Experiencing suffering helps us care for those who experience similar suffering. This is why Paul can command us “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
This is another way Christians suffer differently than the world — a way the world won’t be able to understand. We Christians can see God’s love in our struggle, and we use those experiences to love others more deeply.
This love of God in our suffering also unveils . . .
3. Suffering drives us to God.
I Peter 5:7 is a beautifully familiar verse: “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
But what if God isn’t powerful enough to help me through my struggle? Then there’s reason to be afraid! But what if He’s strong enough to give us “everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence”? Then I can have confidence in my trial!
We can piggy-back this with the fact that since God is not only omnipotent, he’s also omnipresent, we need never fear that He’s abandoned us in our struggle or that we won’t be able to find Him when we look.
Isaiah 42:3 is so beautiful: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.”
This is not a promise that God will give us super powers; this is a commitment that He will be with us and only allow us to experience that which we can endure through His strength.
Now, let’s combine all of this with the fact that God is sovereign. He’s not just all-powerful, He’s also in complete control. Nothing can happen outside of God’s perfect will for us.
These truths — when understood and applied — add to the Christian’s ability to suffer well. We shouldn’t find suffering to be an excuse for anger and bitterness and rejection of God. We should see how important it is to run to God in our distress.
How many Psalms ring with this glorious Truth?!
Suffering isn’t a time to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and soldier on. Suffering is a time for us to retreat to the powerful, sustaining refuge of our Lord.
Suffering sanctifies us, convinces us of God’s love, and puts us into a position to rest on Him as we should.
Now, there are many other things that could be said about the purpose of suffering. Just Google “the purpose of suffering” and I’m sure you’ll discover more. But the three I’ve covered today are the big ones.
This should provide you the necessary foundation to help your children understand why life is hard. There is a purpose, it’s not an accident, and it’s not the result of a capricious, unloving despot.
Suffering is a powerful way God shows His love toward us by helping us know Him better, depend on Him fully, and be conformed to His image so that He may be glorified and others may be introduced to Him.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets, and don’t forget to recommend us on Facebook while you’re there.
If you have deeper questions about why God chooses to use suffering to grow us, check out those Apologetic Parenting books at TruthLoveParent.com.
Or you could reach out to Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com. We offer Biblical Counseling and Biblical Family Coaching. One of our counselees recently made the observation that they never realized that real change was a possibility.
Another commented that they have seen themselves in a brand new light.
And another thanked us repeatedly for helping them discover God’s will for their marriage, parenting, and family.
We’re here to help.
And remember, if we want our children to grow up into Christ, we must parent in truth and love.
To that end, join us next time as we look at the response to suffering.
Join The TLP Family and receive email updates when we publish new articles and episodes.
Subscribe to Our Podcast