Four Types Of Suffering
I want to share with you four different types of suffering so that if and when you experience any in your life, you will know how to handle each one.
- A Test
The first type of suffering that we go through is testing. A test is a life situation provided by God to evaluate man’s individual moral character and obedience to His laws, (Proverbs 17:3, Psalms 139:23).
Job 23:10, “But He knows where I am going and when He tests me, I will come out as pure gold.”
- A Trial
The second type of suffering is called a trial. A trial is often a type of testing that lasts over a period of time. When you are in a trial, the Holy Spirit is cross-examining your heart.
Psalm 26:2, “Put me on trial, Lord and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart.”
- A Tribulation
The third type of suffering that we may experience is called tribulation. Tribulation is a state of great trouble or suffering and is often an extended time of sorrow. All you need to do is read the Book of Job and you will understand what tribulation is. Job went through an extended time of sorrow, which felt like it was never going to end but here was an end in sight. He kept his focus on Jesus Christ in order to be able to endure to the end.
- A Tragedy
The fourth type of suffering is a tragedy. A tragedy is an event causing great suffering often ending in loss. Tragedies are often unexplainable, hard to understand and very difficult to accept.
This is by no means a comprehensive list but the purpose is not to teach you the terminology but to help you understand the different experiences you may have in life. Every single one of us will experience suffering in our lives.
Life is a balance. You will experience the vicissitudes of life – the highs and lows – but what is important is how you handle the difficult times. As a child of God, you will never suffer in vain. There is a purpose for everything that we go through and nothing happens for nothing, (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
The Purpose Of A Test
We go through testing to learn obedience.
Hebrews 5:8, “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered”.
Jesus Himself was taught obedience by the difficult things He had to go through in His own times of testing. It is through these times of testing that we learn to hear the voice of God, take Him at His Word and obey Him. If you want to be used by God, you have to be yielded to the Holy Spirit. Are you trustworthy before God Almighty? Can God trust you with His spiritual gifts, wisdom and knowledge? Through testing, you will learn obedience.
Why We Suffer Trials
We go through trials to learn to trust only in God and not in the things of this world.
1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you greatly rejoice, through now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more previous than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
Through the many trials that we go through, our faith is purified. God cares about your faith because faith is the only thing which pleases God (Hebrews 11:6).
Don’t be surprised when hard times come. Trials change and mould us into who we are supposed to be in Christ.
The world can only offer temporary pleasure, temporary solutions to problems. But when you learn to put your trust only in God, you don’t need those things anymore because your heart is satisfied by the Holy Spirit.
In times of trials and troubles, you will not rise to the occasion but fall to the level of your training.
How are you preparing your heart as a child of God? Do you make God’s Word the standard for your life? Do you dwell in the secret place of the Most High God and find rest in the shadow of the Almighty? (Psalm 91:1). If you do, when the trials of life come, you will be ready to stand. You can only do this if the Word of God is the word on your lips and the meditation of your heart.
Are you feeding yourself with truth? What you prepare for in your good season will carry you through your hard seasons. You will find yourself in God’s Word, in every story and every single verse. So take it all in. Learn about what God has done for other people within his Word. Listen to testimonies. See the way that God is still moving and your trust in Him will grow.
What Do We Learn In Tribulations?
We go through tribulations to develop endurance. Tribulation is often found in a prolonged challenge that we face. This type of suffering is usually experienced only a few times in our lives before God takes us to the next level.
Have you ever prayed for God to use you? Even when he was in prison and chains, Apostle Paul was still being used by God. Paul suffered great sorrow for a prolonged period of time but he endured to the end, (Philippians 1:28-30).
Romans 5:3, “And not only that but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces endurance”.
We need endurance because in tribulation you usually have very little power to control your circumstances. The only thing you can control is your reaction. How you handle your times of prolonged sorrow matters.
Hebrews 12:1-3, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now, He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility He endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.”
Understand what Jesus Christ has already done, paving the way and with the Spirit of God living in you, you will understand that greater is He that in in you than the one who is in the world. When you keep your eyes on the Lord and endure, you will see the goodness of God in the land of the living; you will rejoice and be glad again.
How are you preparing your heart for the journey of life? The truth is suffering in life is not a matter of if but when. Choose to spend your time with the Lord and allow Him to change and prepare your heart for whatever comes. I say this to strengthen you because Jesus has already told us that these things will come. But equally clear was His message that He would be with us.
Why Do We Experience Tragedies?
We experience tragedies to remind us that this world is not our home. As people of God, we are just passing through.
In John 17:14, Jesus refers to His disciples when He said, “The world hates them because they do not belong here just as I do not belong to this world”. When you go through times of deep sorrow, your vantage point matters.
Isaiah 40:31, “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength; they will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and they will not faint”. If you are experiencing a tragedy or you are grieving right now, which vantage point are you seeing your situation from? Are you down on the bottom, face-to-face with everything that’s happening or are you soaring high on wings like eagles, so that you can see the sovereign plan of God?
Philippians 3:10-11, “I want to know Christ and experience the might power that raised Him from the dead. I want to suffer with Him, sharing in His death so that one way or the other, I will experience the resurrection from the dead”.
As a Christian, your suffering is different from the suffering of those in the world. Your suffering has a time limit. When you live for Christ, you can be sure of one thing: you will never suffer longer than your time on earth.
We are reminded in Romans 8:28, that what the enemy meant for evil, God can turn around for good. Even when we suffer, God can use your pain and turn it into something beautiful. God can turn your mess into a message. When you fully understand that there is nothing in this world to cling to, that’s when you can fully enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.
Suffering is not limited to Christians alone. We experience suffering like everyone else. The issue is will you suffer alone, without divine help or hope for tomorrow? A Christian’s suffering brings us closer to Jesus and strengthens our confidence in our salvation but without God, your suffering is without hope or purpose.
Sermon By Brittany Hartikainen; Blog by Edward Gardiner
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