Search Bible Outlines and commentaries




The scope of suffering addressed here does not include suffering for doing wrong; divine discipline for sin; etc. – even though all suffering is connected to some extent with our existence in a fallen world. There was no suffering before the Fall. There will be no suffering in glory. All suffering is by nature unpleasant and not something we seek out or enjoy. Suffering is an inevitable reality in our fallen world for every individual. The sovereignty of God extends to how He has purposed to use suffering in the lives of His children to accomplish His purposes.


1. the pain, misery, or loss experienced by a person who suffers

2. the state or an instance of enduring pain, etc

Cambridge English Dictionary:

physical or mental pain that a person or animal is feeling


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. Suffering is the basic element that makes up the negative valence of affective phenomena. The opposite of suffering is pleasure or happiness.

Suffering is often categorized as physical or mental. It may come in all degrees of intensity, from mild to intolerable. Factors of duration and frequency of occurrence usually compound that of intensity. Attitudes toward suffering may vary widely, in the sufferer or other people, according to how much it is regarded as avoidable or unavoidable, useful or useless, deserved or undeserved.

Suffering occurs in the lives of sentient beings in numerous manners, often dramatically. As a result, many fields of human activity are concerned with some aspects of suffering. These aspects may include the nature of suffering, its processes, its origin and causes, its meaning and significance, its related personal, social, and cultural behaviors, its remedies, management, and uses.

Merriam-Webster: Looking at synonyms —

DISTRESS, SUFFERING, MISERY, AGONY mean the state of being in great trouble.

– DISTRESS implies an external and usually temporary cause of great physical or mental strain and stress. the hurricane put everyone in great distress

– SUFFERING implies conscious endurance of pain or distress. the suffering of famine victims

– MISERY stresses the unhappiness attending especially sickness, poverty, or loss. the homeless live with misery every day

– AGONY suggests pain too intense to be borne. in agony over the death of their child


A. PERSECUTION — for the cause of Christ

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

— (Jn. 16:33) – Persecution inevitably connected to living in this world; but not determinative of our mental outlook

For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, 15 who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, 16 hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.

— (1 Thess. 2:14-16) – Persecution modeled by the early churches

“And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

— (2 Tim. 3:12) – Persecution must be expected by every godly disciple of Jesus

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;”

— (1 Pet. 2:21-23) – Persecution modeled by Jesus Christ


“For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”

— (Rom. 8:22-23)

“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.”

— (2 Cor. 4:17-18)


“Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. 10 And she, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.”

— (1 Sam. 1:9-10)


“For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”

— (Matt. 10:35-36)

“And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, ‘O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!’”

— (2 Sam. 18:33)


1. Difficulties of Life

Cf. life of Job

Cf. experiences of the Apostle Paul:

“Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;”

— (2 Cor. 11:25-26)

2. Financial / Material

“And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.’”

— (Job 1:21)

And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

— (Lk. 9:58)



“and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;”

— (Rom. 5:4)

“And 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 whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;”

— (Rom. 8:28-29) God uses suffering to transform us to be like Christ

“that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;”

(1 Pet. 1:7)


“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”

— (1 Pet. 5:6-10) Suffering breaks us down and makes us dependent on God’s grace


“But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”

— (Jas. 4:6-10)


“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

— (2 Cor. 12:9-10) — We need to boast in God’s grace


“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

— (2 Cor. 12:9-10) — Develop in us the ability to manifest strength in weakness


“who 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. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer;”

— (2 Cor. 1:4-6)


“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;”

— (Rom. 5:3-4)

“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 may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.”

— (2 Thess. 1:4-5)

“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.”

— (Heb. 2:10)

“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, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

— (Jas. 1:2-4)


“And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.”

— (1 Pet. 3:13-17)


“For all things are for your sakes, that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.”

— (2 Cor. 4:15)


A. DOUBTING – Questioning God’s Goodness and Love and Power

B. DOWNCAST – “How long” laments

C. DISILLUSIONED – “Why me” laments

D. DESPAIRING – “Can’t go on” laments



1. Dismiss the Suffering – ask God to immediately take it away; or seek to minimize it or deny it

2. Defeat the Suffering – engage it as a fight to be conquered – like fighting against cancer, etc.

3. Deal with the Suffering on a human level – engage doctors; seek therapy; apply human techniques, etc.

4. Drug the Suffering – attempt to numb the pain; apply heating pad or immerse in ice; etc.

5. Distract the Suffering – via entertainment (TV, sports, food, sex, etc.)

6. Deal-Making – If God will take away the suffering, I will commit to X, Y, Z.


1. Pray

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises.”

— (Jas. 5:13)

2. Give Thanks with Joy

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

— (Matt. 5:10-12)

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”

— (Col. 1:24)

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,”

— (1 Pet. 1:6)

“but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

— (1 Pet. 4:13-14)

3. Practice Contentment

“Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 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. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

— (Phil. 4:11-13)

4. Learn Lessons

“It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Thy statutes.”

— (Ps. 119:71)

5. Embrace Suffering as the will of God to accomplish His sovereign purposes

“so that no man may be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this.”

— (1 Thess. 3:3)