The topic of suffering has various aspects that need to be appropriately addressed by the church as a whole. The aspect of it that I want to discuss here is the reality of suffering in the Christian life.
There are many Christians who believe that God never causes or allows illness, injury, or loss that leads to suffering. It’s a belief that it is always God’s will to heal people in this lifetime, and that Christians are able to overcome any and every sickness, disability and suffering through the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus.
Now, before those of you who don’t agree with this scoff, I thoroughly believe that there is much truth in this theology, regardless of whether I consider it over-realized. I myself believe in miracles and powerful healings through the power given unto us – and yes, I have witnessed such events!
So what’s the problem with believing that it is always God’s will to heal everyone in this lifetime? Well, to believe that God never causes or allows suffering is to believe that God is always wanting to heal a person of their condition or situation right now. The consequent belief that cannot be avoided with this theology is that if a Christian is dealing with a long-term illness, injury or other condition or situation, it is their own fault. Whether because of sin in their lives, or due to lack of faith, laziness, or any other number of reasons another Christian could come up with.
I do believe the Bible makes it clear that sometimes a person’s suffering is in fact caused or prolonged by sin in their life, or by unbelief. However, I also think that the Bible makes it abundantly clear that this is not always the case, and that it is not for other Christians to speculate on.
I thought about making cases for the reality of suffering from Job, or from Daniel, or from early Christian history, or even from Peter’s own teaching. But when I asked the Holy Spirit for guidance on the best way to approach this topic, He gave me an unconventional idea. Now, I believe that God has a sense of humour, but you’ll have to stay with me here.
Women have periods. You could try to debate me, but I’m pretty confident in that statement. In Leviticus, the Law states that women are ‘unclean’ while they are menstruating. Why? Well, long-story-short, because of the blood. Blood, especially in the Old Testament, represents sin and death. Or perhaps more accurately, death (and suffering) as the result of sin having entered the world. Whatever the reproductive system looked like in the Garden of Eden, we have to assume that there was no blood involved.
Sin is an abomination to God, so anyone bearing the reminder of sin, including menstrual blood, was unclean and could not be near to God or the temple until the issue had been resolved and they were ‘cleansed’ by the priest.
Women are no longer considered ‘unclean’ when on their period (thank you Jesus), but we still have them. We often still have to deal with the pain, iron deficiency, and illness or debilitation that is a result of them too. Not to mention that we still have great pain in childbirth, which was a direct curse of sin and evil having entered the world. So, does this mean that every woman ever is to blame for their own period or labour pain? Do women all have sin in their lives, or have a lack of faith, or haven’t been trying hard enough to rebuke the enemy?
The reason women still deal with periods and labour pain today is because we still live in a sinful, evil world, and we are not immune to it. Even as Christians with the healing, life-giving power of the Holy Spirit, sometimes we still suffer from the effects of living in a fallen world – including illness, injury, loss and poverty. What would we be hoping for in the return of Jesus if every blessing was available to us right now?
Why am I trying to convince people that suffering is, in fact, a part of the life we live, even as Christians? I’m not trying to discourage anyone, and I’m definitely not telling people to stop praying for healing and breakthrough. God does heal! He is the God of miracles and power!
The reason I’m trying to help people understand this is because many Christians, who are already suffering, have further suffered judgement, condemnation, lack of comfort, isolation, and even gossiping and a tarnished image due to other Christians not knowing how to deal with or place suffering in the context of a Christian life. They have suffered this at the hands of the very people who should be their comfort and support!
If you would not tell a woman to simply have more faith that her menstrual or labour pain would go away, or believe that she wouldn’t get her period, or to speak against it and pray harder, you probably shouldn’t say it to Christians who are dealing with long-term illness or injury. If you are that person’s accountability partner, mentor, pastor or leader, and discern that you may need to have that conversation with them, pray about whether to have it and pray for wisdom to know how to have it. Be understanding, and be humble. Remember that in everything we do, we do it in love and for the glory of Christ and His church.
 Job 1:1 – 42:17.
 Specifically Daniel 7.
 For example, the language used in 1 Peter 4:19.
 Leviticus 15:19 – 33 (Being ‘unclean’ was a pretty big thing, I encourage you to read through Leviticus and some good commentaries on it!).
 Genesis 3:16.