What is suffering?

(Tim Ramey) #1

Continuing the discussion from [Imagination and The Problem of Suffering]

The intention of my question is not to be cute or to simply stimulate discussion. Why suffer, the problem of suffering etc have all been discussed but what really is it?

Peter tells us that at time it is something that happens to us because of our wrongdoing. But apart from bringing it on ourselves, what is it? So many discussions in RZIM Q&A’s ask why God would allow suffering. So suffering is such a big subject but where did it come from, what is for and what exactly is it?

We all know people that only need for their favorite team to lose a game to go into the dumpster. Is that suffering? Others undergo tragic circumstances and seem to cruise right along. Did they not really suffer?

Should we be “glad” when it comes along because an aspect of it is that it seems to be a vessel that can produce spiritual growth.

To me, it is probably one of the biggest mysteries in my walk at times. When I see others going through hardships, or even myself at times, I want to pray it away. We are people of compassion so it is only natural to pray that life just glides along for them - driving along where the sun is always shining. Yet is that best? But do we want problems?

I’m sorry, I’m getting out of hand because the subject is so multi-faceted, What is this crazy thing called suffering?

(angelina Edmonston) #2

This is a great question.

WHY SUFFERING… could it be suffering 1) brings repentance. 2) may strengthen our walk and faith 3) prove how great GOD is, even for the rebellious also. In suffering for righteousness sake 1) We over come like Jesus did. 2) to receive our rewards in eternity 3) to overcome and be the people spoken of in Revelations to sit in his throne, get a white stone, a new name etc 3) to become the Bride without spot or blemish instead of those under the altar. I think this is all about being like Jesus. Holy as he is holy. (?)

Yes we should be very glad about becoming a vessel of honor even in suffering. We should shout for joy and be like Paul and all who suffered in the Word, even as our Master did.

I see varying issues with suffering in the Word. The Word says those who are in Christ /Yeshua the Messiah will be persecuted for righteousness sake.

I see two kingdoms the Kingdoms in Scripture… the Kingdom of GOD and the Kingdom of Satan or Sin. We choose each day who we will serve. We may well be Christians and still have an area we are severing another master ie… being bitter, accusing or a division maker.

Jesus / Yeshua said, a house divided can not stand. Jesus / Yeshua told us the murder the thief comes to kill steal and destroy, that we are not wrestling flesh and blood. Jesus /Yeshua said we also suffer for His sake. Even in the OT the prophets were killed for speaking for GOD.

James said, GOD is not evil cannot be tempted with evil & never tempts any man. GOD’S judgement is always righteous and good for all.

It also says that people suffer under the hands of cruel oppressors (people have sin and lusts). Some suffer from their own ignorance or evil choices.

The main thing is WHO causes what types of suffering.

Of course we know from the beginning of Lucifer’s fall iniquity entered (he disobeyed having a thought to be “like” the Most high in righteousness NOPE, he was power hunry, prideful and insane) … the angels suffered from Satan’s sales pitch & mutinied against the Creator. In the garden - Adam had the final say he knew the 1 commandment "do not eat of the tree of the KNOWLEDGE of good and evil. Adam disobey and now we have 66 books !! We are no different Isa_59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. Yet GOD loves us and will hear a repentant humble heart. His Grace is sufficient for us to overcome.

We live in a fallen world. People suffer from that. Jesus/Yeshua redeemed us back from the enemies kingdom so that we may appropriate what He did and do what he did in our life and to help others.

Jesus was a man (and Messiah) who was approved by GOD with miracles and signs and He received the baptism of the Holy Spirit… He was YHWH of the OT and He came as the suffering servant through Mary to show us how to overcome all the power of the enemy and receive eternal life… We do this through righteous endurance through applying His Word and obeying it. We are then doers and not hears only deceiving our own selves.

Once we are born again we are reconnected to GOD. From there we walk - carrying our cross like He did. Jesus/ Yeshua over came the power of the enemy and death and hell… and he gave us the same Holy Spirit to do the same.

Grace is both the divine intervention on the human heart to appropriate (do) what He has said in His Word through being obedient. and the help in times of need when we miss the mark through His unmerited favor. In the Hebrew grace has more than one meaning.

I see people suffer due to ignorance of the Scripture and also because people reject the Scripture.

Hos 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

People may suffer from choosing sin over obedience. Or they omit the Scriptures.

We could suffer due to another persons sin which victimizes us.

People may have toxic thoughts and emotions… we can be tempted in these things like Sorrow, grief, un-forgiveness, bitterness, anger, cruelty rejection, a broken spirit, rejection envy, jealousy, false gods, addictions, fears of every kind, dabbling with any form of occultism… We are told to take thoughts captive and every vain imagination… we can hold onto stuff and it becomes sin. This could bring suffering.

Some suffer for righteousness sake. This is where we should be glad in suffering. This is what I see in the Scripture.

These are random thoughts I had about your post.


(Tim Ramey) #3

@angelina_Edmonston I do thank you for your thorough thoughts on suffering. I especially appreciated your verse that had suffering relating to knowledge - or lack of it.

I still pose the question as to what suffering really is. We can get a dictionary definition but what is it as it relates to our everyday lives?

One aspect of it that I think is really is inclusive in its definition is that it is something we cannot prepare ourselves for. We can talk about it but real suffering is terribly painful. I can tell you that something is going to be terribly hard but if it isn’t, it really is not suffering.

Again, Angelina, your mention of knowledge is interesting because I wonder how much we bring on ourselves unknowingly. If we truly think that candy bars are good for us and we eat them constantly and wonder why we always are so sick, we suffer for something that we think isn’t the source or the reason. Can we do the same in our lives spiritually that translates into suffering?

(angelina Edmonston) #4

The fear of GOD (or reverence) is the beginning of knowledge.

If the Word of GOD is the standard from which we live as believers (or the world). Anything that departs from its instructions or precepts, rejecting or refusing its knowledge, or the refusal to apply these Scriptures & or obey will bring suffering. As the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.

(angelina Edmonston) #5

Tim, may I ask what aspect of spirituality you are speaking of? Is there something specific you think brings suffering.

(Tim Ramey) #6


Angelina, thanks so very much for asking. It is a good, valid question.

I’m reticent to give an example of what I mean to suffer spiritually because I think it could not adequately convey what I’m asking but I’ll try anyway. Here goes:

Say, for example, I read my Bible every day. In fact, my regiment involves reading a chapter per day. However, I don’t feel fed or maybe I seem to lack discernment. I beat myself up over it because, after all, I do read the Bible everyday. I’m not hurting physically but I do ache inside and sense that something is wrong - but what? Because I sincerely want to know why, for so long and it seems like I am so isolated and alone, the Holy Spirit convicts me of the fact that I am just reading the Bible legalistically. I don’t seek God, I’m just doing my duty. When I do seek Him through His Word, suddenly life comes alive once more. It dawns on me that I never sought the Lord for Him but it was I was suppose to do as a Christian. Did I needlessly hurt for years because I was just going through the motions?

That example can be ripped apart, I realize. But my question in asking what suffering is, is because I wonder if it is often self-inflicted, a tool to grow or what, as It is part of so much of our lives. What is it and what’s it all about?

(Jimmy Sellers) #7

@Tim_Ramey, @angelina_Edmonston,
I think maybe a companion question might be is all suffering bad? I ask because RZIM posited the question in the Evil and suffering module.

(Melvin Greene) #8

@Tim_Ramey, in regards to your question of what is suffering in regards to our everyday lives, I believe it is just what ever we are exposed, or subjected to that generally involves some sort of pain, or discomfort. I am reminded of the quote from, (I believe), William Shakespeare in which he talks about “Not suffering fools gladly”. I don’t think that, in the broadest sense, that to suffer something necessarily entails a large amount of pain, but it definitely denotes something unpleasant. I do believe that a lot of suffering is self-inflicted. In my own life I have often suffered the consequences of foolish decisions. When I read your example of reading the Bible out of a sense of obligation and therefore not growing spiritually, or in knowledge of God, I was reminded of something in my own walk with Christ. For the first 18, or 19 years of being a Christian, I wasn’t trusting God in my professional life. I don’t believe I was truly aware of this until through a series of painful events, God revealed this to me. During those years of not trusting, you could say that I suffered from not being fully used by God. I think 1Cor. 3:15 works here: “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
@Jimmy_Sellers, your question, “Is all suffering bad?”, can probably start a whole new thread. I sense there are some deep philosophical undertones here. First I would ask what is the focus of the question. Are you asking is the suffering itself bad, or the end result? I don’t necessarily agree with “The ends justify the means” philosophy, however if a period of suffering results in some sort of gain, or blessing, then you might be able to answer that not all suffering is bad. I went through a period of suffering that ended with me having a deeper faith, love and understanding of God. When I look back on that, I can say that I’m glad I went through that, but I never want to go through that again. It’s kind of a paradox, I guess. I am reminded of Rom. 8:28, “_And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”_ESV

(Tim Ramey) #9

@Jimmy_Sellers I don’t think your question is the start of another thread but it gets at the heart of my question of what suffering is. Is it something that is always bad? Then @Melvin_Greene your insights were very good and contained further aspects of suffering. It is such a huge issue.

Melvin, you spoke of suffering that can be self inflicted. So in my life, if I am blatantly sinning, I know what I should do but I don’t so shouldn’t be surprised at suffering. Thus, I’m not including refusing to do what we know that we should in the “self-inflicted” category. Rather, am I struggling and think that it is just part of life or realize, as you said Melvin, you suffered by not being fully used by God? As posts are made, they seem to get at the heart of my question that further define my question and bring up additional elements of the issue.

Am I suffering for the Lord or I really don’t have to be in pain? As we suffer, should it be brought to the Lord to see if we are, in any way, bringing it on? So should suffering be something that either brings us to Jesus, or if we already know Him, leads us closer to Him? Or is it just what happens when we live in a fallen world?

(Melvin Greene) #10

It is my belief, @Tim_Ramey, that the short answer to your questions are yes, all of the above. I believe that pain and suffering can lead us to Christ, or bring us closer if we already know him. Also, I believe pain and suffering is a natural experience because we live in a fallen world. The question is what do we do with that? We can allow It to define us by becoming hard hearted and bitter, or we can rise above it becoming closer to God, loving him and trusting him more. God can make beauty from ashes, if we are willing.

(Tim Ramey) #11

Do we often miss it if we are suffering “unnecessarily” or is it all valuable?

(Melvin Greene) #12

That’s a hard question to answer, @Tim_Ramey, but a good one. First, I would need to know what you mean by “unnecessary” suffering. Since we profess belief in an all powerful, all knowing God, I have to believe God has his reasons for allowing suffering in our lives. What would you use as indicators that would define unnecessary suffering? I do think there is always a danger in missing out in suffering. In my own life, I remember that at times of significant suffering I was angry and doubtful with God. Eventually, I would come to my senses and humble my self and ask God for forgiveness. I sometimes wonder if that doesn’t prolong suffering.

(Jimmy Sellers) #13

Tim I had in mind things like child birth, kidney stones, chemo, chest pains and a host of other things and decisions that we are faced with in our lives, believer and non-believer alike, that brings on pain and suffering of a type that could be said are necessary to life but are not the results of evil or evil acts, granted we do live in a fallen world. I know this is skirting the 'why" question but it does help me to know that every though we serve a sovereign God there are things and mechanism in place that assure me that not all suffer is bad (in the context of evil or evil intent) but ultimately are for my good.

(Melvin Greene) #14

Good point, @Jimmy_Sellers. In fact, I’m at the hospital right now, with my wife who just had surgery to remove a large kidney stone. That’s a good example of suffering not brought on by evil, just a fallen world. She came through it just fine, and we gave God the glory!

(Jimmy Sellers) #15

@Melvin_Greene let me rejoice with you that God is good! I will pray for an uneventful recovery for your wife and I too know the pain of the “Stone” and the dance that one is compelled to do.:grinning:

(Melvin Greene) #16

Thank you so much, Jimmy! I really appreciate your kind words, brother. I’m sorry to hear that you have had to experience the pain of kidney stones. From what my wife went through, they must be very painful.

(angelina Edmonston) #17


Hi Tim, Wow this is a deep thread.

My personal belief is there was life before with Adam and even Lucifer where there was no suffering.… They were both perfect in creation. Perfect, happy, joyful and in the council of GOD.

Since the time of Adam and Eve who walked in the garden in the cool of the day blessed. What I see is there has been a choice from the beginning. They chose the other kingdom that was also in the garden- Satan. He was already cast out - waiting for Adam to take the bait… and he did and suffered.

Lucifer choose iniquity in his heart. And he convinced 1/3 of the angelic host to buy his lies and thus they suffered like lightening, all banished from heaven…nonredeemable.

Adam chose to eat of the fruit of KNOWLEDGE of good AND EVIL. This brought suffering… No longer perfect they fell and became banished from the garden to be working in the earth in sweat and labor and remembering they choose a form of KNOWLEDGE- even ignorance is a form of knowledge for which GOD"S people perish from… They chose the Liar. who had no access to Adam or this planet until then…

Eve began suffering in child birth, Adam was told man would dominate the wife and the wife would control the man -think of all the suffering this caused!

The Animals and planet has suffered the universe was changed and bent due to the choice of KNOWLEDGE of good and evil… Think … why would God create horse flies to bite man or poison ivy. I think this was all part of the fall… the fall from choosing lies and deceit… instead of the knowledge GOD gave them of LOVE.

Through out time I see suffering came and was a choice. We choose every day life or death.

Man chose the lies of Satan the former arch angel Called the Kingdom of Sin. The Kingdom of Sin is a SELF CENTERED kingdom- void of Love and the understanding of truth, righteousness and even real sacrifice. The sacrifice Jesus paid.

We are a stubborn and stiff necked people and very forgetful. Mostly we have listened to the lies since Adam… The first murder of Able by Cain brought suffering and it was over a false sacrifice or “religion”. Man can be so religious missing relationship with the living GOD. We can know GOD but are we KNOWN of GOD? Do we have a right relationship…

Tim, I was perishing due to ignorance and lack ofr real knowledge of GOD’s Word. When I truely put all my heart into telling GOD, I need you. If you are real please show me I am dying. I cried out with a humble heart in my suffering and deception… He heard me and healed me. I was the prodigal. We are all that at some point. And did I need to endure all that suffering. NO! I could have chosen GOD from the beginning I had a choice so did Adam and so did Lucifer. In my suffering did GOD hear yes he goes after the 1 over the cliff… but think of the 99 who were in the fold who had a good relationship.

I feel MOST suffering is an oppression that came through 1 mans choice. It brought a lessening of GOD’S blessings. And if the curse is not still in action why in the OT does it call inflammation, allergies, panic and mental disorder, itching, failed marriages, foreclosures and loosing children- a curse and more… And it says because we do not listen to GOD and HIS knowledge of the instructions he laid out? Plus their is a curse on this entire planet unntil the end… and that is more suffering. Vanity of vanity and vexation is suffering and an evil disease saith the preacher… all rooted in selfish knowledge — which is a choice.

Rebellion… and stubbornness continues…

Yes, do we suffer for righteousness sake even martyrdom… YES… but was this GOD’S plan for creation or man? NO. It was LOVE and holiness. Righteousness. Did he make room for what could happen yep. Yet even GOD said He repenth he ever made man at one point… and its not far in the future either. Those who will go into eternity with GOD who will be the bride will be those really are KNOWN of GOD preparing them self for the bride groom. We are actually choosing being the bride or under the alter or the hot place daily. We are suppose to over come…

I would think our responsibility is to LOVE and no matter what I see, feel, think, imagine, we are to trust GOD at HIS word-period its not about feelings… There is a time when the very elect will be deceived. Are we ready for that type of test and evn suffering like Stephen . If we cannot handle FB rejection we need to check our selves wither we are in the faith.

Now that we are where we are we have suffering. Not because GOD willed it. Many accuse GOD of suffering and GOD is not tempting or oppressing man… We did it to our selves and the enemy takes great delight in those who have a lack of knowledge or reject the knowledge they do have.

Its all about relationship.

My 2 cents.

(Jennifer Judson) #18

What is suffering? Big subject. Here are some of my thoughts on the question.

Our suffering can be physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual–or a combination of all. A person can be suffering with a painful medical condition, yet still be filled with gratitude because they walk closely with God and are overwhelmed by His constant grace. Perhaps a person seems to be all sunshine and roses from the outside, but inwardly suffers from the trauma of sexual abuse inflicted on them when they were a child. Or, perhaps a widow (or widower) is suffering and stuck in grief, unable to move forward with their life. Whether it’s physical, emotional, or whatever else, we cannot truly experience the pain of another, nor truly understand their suffering.

Suffering can be self-inflicted or victimizing, a product of our own sins or someone elses. And as Jimmy stated, an outcome from a fallen and broken world.

Perhaps suffering is the outcome of whatever condition or circumstance that keeps us from experiencing the fullness of God in our lives. We are creatures of reason and when we are in pain we wonder about the cause. That pain (whether physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual) can cause us to question a loving God’s motives–and blame the creator of all things.

Pain can shift our perspective, causing us to focus solely on ourselves as we draw back rather than reaching out. So we suffer without seeking God. We are kept from experiencing the fullness of God in our lives because we choose to walk without God.

Pain can also create desperation and we cry out to God, and sometimes those cries are met with silence. So we suffer while seeking God. We are kept from experiencing the fullness of God, at least for a time, because we are not hearing God.

Sometimes amidst that suffering and our cries to God, like Paul, we receive an answer that our suffering will not be abated. That we must trust God while enduring suffering, because His ways are higher than our ways. We can experience the fullness of God in our life, but we must redefine what our image of that fullness is as we experience it through pain.

When Mother Theresa was ministering to the dying she envisioned that she was ministering to the dying Christ on the cross, that by helping to sooth some of their suffering she is sharing in the passion of Christ. Study Mother Theresa and you will learn much about the subject of suffering.

All these comments are based on conjecture from a semi-empathetic person who prays to love people better. I have perhaps suffered very small things, but I have not personally suffered great things. I have witnessed and prayed for others in their suffering. I think it’s a common and immense topic because it is universal. I think it’s a topic we must take great care with because we cannot really “walk in their shoes,” and it’s easy to be insensitive. When the question of suffering comes up, it’s definitely time to pray and “question the questioner” as we’ve been taught by Ravi. What are they suffering through that might be their obstacle to walking in fullness with God.

(Tim Ramey) #19

@Melvin_Greene Good points. What I mean by “self inflicted” suffering are posted in #3 and #6 of my posts. Gee @Jimmy_Sellers you must be a prophet! I’m so sorry for your wife’s stones, Melvin.

(Tim Ramey) #20

@angelina_Edmonston That wasn’t your 2 cents worth - rather, it was a million bucks worth!

I agree that originally pain was not in the equation. However, now that it is here, doesn’t the Lord use it for our good? Yet, how do we discern when we think that we are suffering but it is not what the Lord intended? Do we always get Holy Spirit’s perspective or can we miss it?

An example for me was many years ago, a pastor really verbally abused me. We run a lodge and one day, he took one staff at a time and in his and my presence, he railed on me and told them I was a rebel etc. It lasted all day. Prior to this and on that day, because I respected his spirituality above mine, I pleaded with the Holy Spirit to make plain to me what my sin was. I wanted to be done with it. And then, for me, in that state of confusion, a miracle occurred. So plainly the Lord told me that if there was something wrong, He’s big enough to let me know. I suffered for a long time before that moment, when all along, I was condemning myself but I thought my pastor knew more than I did.

So when is the suffering what the Lord wills in our life to grow us and when do we believe subtle lies and suffer unnecessarily?