REASONS FOR SUFFERING
There are two main reasons for a Christian’s suffering: suffering for righteousness’ sake and suffering for sin.
2. Suffering for righteousness’ sake
In this world of sin, suffering for righteousness’ sake is not only unavoidable but is on the increase—the world can no longer tolerate deeds of the light. What was once deemed good is now offensive and unacceptable. Sins have been legalized in many societies, which has blurred and often erased distinctions between right and wrong. Some genuine Christians are labeled as scum of the earth, ‘of whom the world is not worthy’ (Heb 11:38) and are not welcome anywhere: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim 3:12).
Quite often this type of persecution comes from within the community of faith. The ancient saints, for example, were persecuted for proclaiming the truth to their people. Some were hated as a result. Jesus’ reprimand to the scribes and Pharisees underlines their brutality, which they practiced against those who came into their synagogues in the name of the Lord. They persecuted them from city to city, scourged them in the synagogues and even killed and crucified some of them (Mt 23:34–35).
It is, therefore, not much of a surprise when Christians are reviled when they speak up for a righteous cause. We may well be criticized if we provide reminders for the good of the church, for the Bible has already foretold that a time will come when sound advice will no longer be tolerated. The situation will only continue to deteriorate. Evil men (believers) and imposters (false prophets) will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Tim 3:13; cf. Dan 12:10; Rev 22:11). They will neither respect anyone, nor revere God. Instead, they will view criticism as hate crime.
Living a life in Christ after conversion is more often than not full of tribulations and trials. Sometimes, we find ourselves in difficult circumstances for no apparent reason; life may become tumultuous—this is another form of suffering. These episodes in our life can affect our interaction and relationship with others, building up tension and hostility. We may also feel that no one is able to sympathize with our plight. Continuing our journey of faith and offering services to God may become an increasingly heavy burden. Eventually we may even reach a point where we are totally absorbed by the problem itself (cf. Ps 77:3).
[To be continued...]