A Theology of Suffering

“So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…”  
II Cor. 4:16-17

This week I’ve heard from several brothers and sisters in Christ who are struggling and suffering from sickness, disease, and hard times.  I just want to remind you that God is faithful and good, and that nothing we face can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.  In fact, it is often in the midst of hardship that we come to know the love of God in a more personal, sustaining, and soul satisfying way. 

I thought I’d share with all of you some thoughts on suffering, as detail by Murray Harris in The New International Greek Testament Commentary on II Corinthians:  In II Corinthians 1:3-11, several principles emerge from Paul’s discussion:

  1. Suffering patiently endured deepens our appreciation of God’s character, in particular his limitless compassion and never-failing comfort (1:3-4).
  2. Suffering drives us to trust God alone.  Paul’s desperate plight had undermined his self-reliance and compelled his total dependence on a God who raises the dead and therefore can rescue the dying from the grip of death (1:9).
  3. Suffering brings identification with Christ.  Paul could identify his sufferings as the “sufferings of Christ” (1:5) probably because they befell him as a “person in Christ” (12:2) who was engaged in the service of Christ (4:11).  They were Christ’s sufferings because they contributed to the fulfillment of the suffering destined for the body of Christ or because Christ continued to identify himself with his afflicted church.
  4. The experience of God’s comfort in our sufferings qualifies, equips, and obliges us to comfort others undergoing any type of suffering (1:4, 6).  The apostle’s thought seems to imply four stages: Paul’s own sufferings (= Christ’s sufferings) (1:4), his experience of God’s comfort mediated through Christ (1:5), the Corinthians’ sufferings, and their experience of God’s comfort mediated through Paul (1:6-7). 
  5. Suffering is not forever.  In comparison with the weighty and eternal glory that is produced by suffering patiently endured, suffering is relatively insignificant and momentary (4:17).  Glory follows suffering.

Don’t lose heart!  Keep your eyes fixed on that eternal glory that God has promised and we know in Jesus Christ our Lord!

Grace and peace,


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