For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. (NLT)
You have all heard it ‘how can a loving God allow my _____ to suffer, or allow such suffering in the world?’ The issue here is a man looking at the issue of God’s sovereignty (How can God allow) from man’s human emotional and finite philosophical mind. In asking and attempting to answer this question we attempt to bring God down to our level. Simply put this is both impossible and sinful.
There are FOUR main reasons for suffering that we find in the Bible. The first is the case of Job. What did Job do to deserve suffering, NOTHING!!! Job suffered because God was in conflict with Satan. The lesson is that Spiritual warfare is real and can affect mankind. Job never finds out the reason for his suffering, all he knows is God is sovereign and worthy to be praised. Job’s faith gets him through the suffering.
Second and the common reason folks think others suffer is Sin. It would seem logical if you are embedded in sinful acts in your life God can and many times does intervene to steer you back on the righteous path. The form of suffering can take many forms from mild to very painful. Depending on how hard-hearted you are.
The next form of suffering we see is universal suffering. Examples of this are Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, COVID-19, and the current war in Ukraine. Exactly why God allows these great disasters no one can truly answer with certainty. We do know that in the end the sovereign God of the universe will be Glorified. So maybe it is to soften the heart of some world leader, motivate some charity, spread the Gospel in a manner otherwise closed before, only He knows, and we need only pray for its success.
The final form of suffering is related to the last except it is for specific individuals. I was once told this one was too similar to the first but I will let you judge. Here an individual is inflicted in some manner, physically, mentally, financially whatever the case, and has to seek help. They go and get help and through their witness, the folks around them see Christ. God has allowed this suffering to bring forth His Glory in an otherwise dark place.
Suffering is never “pleasant” in the worldly sense but suffering for Christ can and should be counted “joyful.”
Dr John Gill Comments on this verse:
for the sake of Christ personal; for the sake of Christ mystical, for his body’s sake the church; for the sake of his Gospel, and for the sake of his cause and interest in the world: now to suffer in name and character, in estate or person, not as an evildoer, but as a Christian, is a gift of God, as faith in Christ is; all the sufferings of the saints are appointed by God; their being called forth to suffer shame for the sake of Christ, is an high honour conferred upon them; all the grace and strength by which they are supported under sufferings for Christ are given to them; and all the glory consequent upon them is not merited by them, which are by no meant to be compared with it, but is the free gift of God through Christ. The same persons to whom it is given to believe in Christ, to them it is given to suffer for him; and they all do in some shape or another, though some more, others less; yet all are partakers of sufferings for Christ, and so are conformed to him their head, and hereby enter the kingdom: now all this is said, as containing so many reasons to encourage believers to have their conversation as becomes the Gospel of Christ, by a steady adherence to it, and a joint contention and striving for it, without being intimidated by their enemies.