What the Bible Really Says about Suffering

Right now you may be scratching your head and asking yourself, “Does the Bible really say that I';m supposed to be happy because I';m suffering?” Well, that';s not exactly what the Bible teaches.

God doesn';t expect us to look at difficulties in our lives, such as the loss of jobs, broken relationships, sicknesses, injuries, and the like, and be happy that they are happening to us. In fact, he knows that there is absolutely no way we can be happy about those kinds of things. What God does want, however, is for us to be able to acknowledge that we are hurting and suffering but at the same time know that He is doing something good in us and for us through those times of suffering.

The apostle Paul knew a little bit about suffering. He went through arrests, beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, threats, and just about every other difficulty you can imagine. Even as he wrote his letter to the Philippian church, Paul sat in chains in a Roman prison, not knowing whether he would ever see freedom again or if he was going to live or die. Yet in the midst of all that, he was able to say from the heart, “always be full of joy in the Lord” (Philippians 4:4).

In the short letter of Philippians, the apostle Paul uses the word joy — or variations — no fewer than eight times and the word rejoice no fewer than five. Obviously, Paul wants to convey the idea that our relationships with God through Jesus Christ give us many reasons to feel joy in our hearts.

It was the fact that Paul wrote these things while in stocks and chains in a Roman prison that makes his letter to the Philippians not just a beautiful letter to a church he loved but also a study in rejoicing in even the worst of times and situations.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. That is exactly what Paul himself was. In spite of his present circumstances, he writes a joy-filled love letter to his friends, his brothers, and his sisters in Philippi. For that reason, this book of the Bible is in itself an encouragement to all believers to live in the joy of the Lord no matter what circumstances they face. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul has many things to teach us about joy in the midst of adversity and suffering.

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