Living below in this old sinful world
Hardly a comfort can afford
Striving alone to face temptation so
Where could I go but to the Lord
Where could I go oh where could I go
Seeking the refuge for my soul
Needing a friend to save me in the end
Where could I go but to the Lord

To get acquainted with suffering seems to be a silly topic for anyone who has lived on this earth. Suffering surrounds us and many times overtakes us. However, in order for us to endure suffering, we must achieve a better understanding of what we are discussing and experiencing.

Who Suffers?
Suffering is perhaps the most common of human experiences. In Genesis 25:22-26 we see Jacob and Esau struggling together in the womb. Their struggle continued throughout their lives and even in the present day by their offspring. Job 14:1 tells us that “man who is born of woman is few of days and full of trouble.” Ecclesiastes 9:3 sums up our predicament: “This is an evil that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” Everyone has pain. Everyone has problems. Everyone hurts.

What is Suffering?
The definition of suffering is more complex than it may first appear. The word “suffer” usually refers to enduring something determined to be unenjoyable. It is the experience of a negative sensation. Not every negative sensation is undesirable. Without some negative sensation, we would not know if we were hurting ourselves, we would not know if something was hurting us, and we would not be able to maintain our regular bodily functions.
The Bible’s opening chapters reveal various degrees and types of suffering. Genesis 2:15 tells us “the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Without some capability of suffering and pain sensations, Adam would not have been able to work without hurting himself and would not have enjoyed the blessings of a “hard days work.” Isn’t it possible that Adam experienced some frustration by not being allowed to eat of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:17)? Genesis 2:20 records Adam’s recognition that there was not a helper suitable for him in all of creation. Surely this would have caused some emotional hurt. However, this experience would also help Adam to appreciate Eve (Gen. 2:18).
These experiences were only magnified when Adam and Eve brought sin into the world. Genesis 2:16-19 and 2:22-24 record the punishments placed on Adam and Eve because of their sin. Apart from death and the new sensations of shame, guilt, and fear the punishments were not new. The suffering laid out in Genesis 2:17-19 was only the multiplication of the experience so that it grew from uncomfortable to true suffering. These new experiences have been the experience of creation since that time (Romans 8:18-25).

When Do We Suffer?
We suffer in this world because it is an existence that is marred by sin (Genesis 3 & Romans 8). The very fact that this world is not what God designed it to be because sin is in it makes this world a dangerous place. We suffer because of nature and the natural environment. The very “laws of nature” which make this world a reasonable place also set in motion things that can be very destructive–tornadoes, floods, fire, etc.
We suffer at the hands of bad decisions. Sin is ultimate cause of suffering. When the Jews rejected Christ, it caused Christ to suffer at their hands. When Cain sinned in worship, he was also led to sin by becoming jealous. These sins led to the murder of Abel. Social drinking leads to drunk driving, DUI’s, accidents, and “accidental manslaughter”. We understand that actions have consequences. Sin has negative and painful consequences.

Where Do We Suffer?
People suffer in many different ways. Suffering effects us body, mind, and soul. These three types of suffering are different and separate from the other. However, all suffering is related. Those with chronic pain suffer physically which leads to emotional suffering which also leads to spiritual suffering. Emotional and psychological pain, such as unmanaged stress, causes physical and spiritual problems as well.
We are all acquainted with suffering in our physical bodies. Paul struggled with the “thorn in the flesh”. The physical suffering of Christ is ever before us (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53; Matthew 27-27). Physical suffering is all around us.
We are all also acquainted with emotional suffering. The human experience of emotional pain is well documented in the Psalms. Job’s struggle began as tremendous external problems, but they grew into even more painful and devastating emotional and spiritual struggles.
Spiritual suffering is also a companion to spiritual people. Recognition of sin brings pain. At least 3000 were “pricked in their hearts” because of sin (Acts 2:36). Paul had his “daily anxiety for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28). Each of struggle with the guilt of our own sin and the sin of others.

Why Do We Suffer?
The question “Why does God allow suffering?” continues to plague us and has been put forth as the atheist’s chief argument. People of faith must be ready to give a defense, but we must also understand our limitations in defending the actions of our infinite God.
In the book of Job we see that human suffering plays a part in the ultimate battle between good and evil. Suffering helps determine the answer to Satan’s question, “Does Job serve God for nought?”.
Hebrews 12 reminds us that God has a plan for us and that He chooses to allow us to suffer in various ways so that we may grow, so that we may be disciplined, and so that we may “share in His holiness.” “For the Lord disciplines the one who he loves and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6; cf. Prov. 3:11-12). Job 5:17 rightly says, “Blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty.”

How Can it be Made Better?
How can we make it stop hurting? This is the decisive question. Some turn to drugs to numb the pain of life. Some make unfortunate decisions when life seems to great to bear. Others turn to science as the answer to all life’s problems. Some choose to reject God because of the suffering. Ultimately, all these things fail.
Having examined and experienced the problem of suffering, I am convinced that God is the only place one may turn for hope of relief. We answer with Simon Peter, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we believe and know that you are the holy one of God” (John 6:68-69).
Living below in this old sinful world
Hardly a comfort can afford
Striving alone to face temptation so
Where could I go but to the Lord
Where could I go oh where could I go
Seeking the refuge for my soul
Needing a friend to save me in the end
Where could I go but to the Lord

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