The inevitability of suffering

This blog attempts to tackle the difficult question 'why do we suffer?'. It explores the biblical perspective of suffering and offers suggestions to help us deal with it.





We will suffer, no two ways about it. People will damage us physically or emotionally, we will become ill [some becoming terminally ill] and we may even face death/persecution but the pain and the suffering is temporary

I've had many friends who aren't Christians say that they find it hard to believe there is a God and when I've asked why? they respond saying one of these three things :  " Why would God allow people to suffer?'  " What kind of God allows suffering in the world?" "If God is real, why is there suffering".  Interestingly enough,  I've come across Christians who have also asked similar questions, just in a different way :  "Why do some people suffer?"   "Why do people who do bad things prosper"  "Are some people not healed because they lack faith?" In a world filled with people committing heinous crimes such as rape and sex trafficking, a world where people are dying daily from poverty and famine and a world where people are being persecuted because of their faith, race or tribe, there are probably many people, both Christian and non-christian, who have asked the question at some point in their life "Why do people suffer?".




I was only 17 when 5 of my school friends, one evening, jumped into a car and made their way towards Mcdonalds in Beckton from East Ham. That night is even more vivid to me because I remember getting ready to meet them down the road from my house where they were hanging out. It was only because my mum stopped from leaving the house that evening that I didn't go and meet them and the rest of my friends. Late that evening they made their journey in the car and collided, head on with a double decker bus. As a result of that collision, my best-friend and two other school friends tragically passed away, leaving only two survivors who also happened to be brothers. One of those survivors is still recovering from the impact of the accident after losing his ability to talk and walk. Although he is now talking, 10 years later he uses a walking frame to walk around his house.  I remember going to the scene of the crash, a couple minutes walk from my house,  early hours that morning and feeling like I was was in a nightmare. There are 2 things that will never leave my memory as long as I live.  1) Was the sight of the scene. It was like a scene from a miniature version of armageddon. The car, [or what was supposed to be a car] looked like scrap metal that had been condensed into a box. There was no car. It was hard to believe that anyone could have even been inside of the car, let alone survive the damage caused to it. I'll try and save you the gory details but the wreckage was so bad that even though they crashed right outside a fire station,  the firefighters had to complete the most arduous procedure of cutting these boys out of the vehicle. The bus, a few yards away, was also in the middle of the road with the majority of the bonnet completely removed. 2) The second thing i'll never be able to forget is the face of my best-friend when he laid there dead on the hospital bed.  Out of the 3 fatalities, he was the only one who didn't pass away at the scene. He was taken by an air ambulance to Whitechapel hospital but died shortly after arriving there. When my parents brought me to the hospital, a number of my friends were already sitting there sobbing and holding one another. In the many years of our friendship ,It was the first time I had seen any of them cry let alone wailing loud cries of pain. When I went into the room where they had kept him,  by his bedside was his dad who stood there silently and his cousin ( a friend of mine also) unable to contain herself when I walked towards her. And then it happened. I looked at the figure laying in the bed and there he was, It was Jess. But it wasn't Jess. I mean he was completely unrecognisable. His head was bigger, his nose, eyes and mouth were swollen. The handsome, charismatic and loving boy that I knew since I was 11 was laying there in front of me, lifeless ...and it just wasn't him. It couldn't be him, My whole body was cold.

Why Do We Suffer?  That's where it then began. The questions.  "Why would you take him away from me?" "Why would you take him away from us?" "Why would you take someone that didn't cause any harm to anybody" "Why would you take the centre of our friendship away from us?".  The questions were never ending and they were all aimed at God. "Why do you make us suffer?".   That was what I struggled with the most. Why?   I may have understood if my friends that had passed away were mean, nasty people who were not liked by anyone except their exclusive network of friends but it was the opposite. They were loved by EVERYONE. You couldn't meet a nicer, caring and friendly group of boys than them. Jess in particular was known as our "Superman". The only people that hated him were the people he had fought in our younger days when we were having clashes in our area with boys from another race. Even then, Jess was only ever involved in fights because he was defending those around him. I can think of  many times where my big mouth had landed me in a bit of trouble and he had popped up to literally rescue me in that sticky situation. There was one time when I had called him because I had encountered a number of boys who had a vendetta against me and we was outnumbered. Jess darted from his house to help us out and within half an hour of getting there he had been picked up by the police.  I was never proud of the amount of trouble we got in, or how much trouble I may have got Jess in, but it didn't matter to Jess because he had a heart of Gold. He cared so much for those around him and would defend anyone being troubled by someone even if he knew the outcome wouldn't be great. He was respected so much in our neighbourhood and community that when the boys we had been clashing with for many of our school years heard that Jess had passed away, they drove down to the spot in which Jess, Idris and Raymond passed away and swore to end the whole war there and then. Even they realised someone special had been taken away. Although it's been a very long and in some ways a tiring journey, I've been able to find the answer as to why people suffer. It's all in the bible. First and foremost it's important to note that there isn't a single verse in the bible [that I have come across] that ever said we as human beings wouldn't suffer. If we take a step away from the bible for a moment and think about some of the awful things that people are doing or succumbed to at the moment, who is doing it? It's us. We human beings are inflicting pain on one another, we are the ones who are polluting the world, we are the ones producing genetically modified foods that are now being linked to cancer, we are the ones killing one another on the streets, in wars between countries and we are the ones in control of the actions and decisions we make, not God. Some may then argue that there are people who are good and have done nothing to no one and may still suffer or be sick. That throws up the question of what is good? and whose/what standards are we judging what is good by? That however is a discussion for another day but God himself has never said that people both good and bad will not suffer.  What the Bible says about suffering John 16: 33 "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation.But take heart; I have overcome the world" 1 Peter 4:12-13 "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share christ's sufferings, that you may also receive and be glad when his glory is revealed" 1 peter 2:19 - 21  "For this is a gracious thing, when mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and we are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his footsteps" 1 Peter 3:17 " For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil" Psalm 73:26 " My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" Romans 8:35 " Who shall separate us from the love of christ? Shall tribulation,or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 1 Peter 4:1 "Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has leased from sin," Ecclesiastes 7:4 " In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find anything that will be after him" Hebrews 12:10 " For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness" Mark 4:17 "And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while, then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. John 9:2-3 " And his disciples asked him,"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, " His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents' sins. He is blind so that God's power might be seen at work in him." Revelation 2:10 " Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for then ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life"  What do all these scriptures have in common? God's confirmation of suffering. He never tried to hide it, sugar coat it or say it metaphorically. He said it plainly in his word We Will Suffer. It is a part of life. The word of God also reminds us in  1 Peter 2: 19- 21 that when Jesus Christ came down from heaven to live on earth, he also suffered just like we do now because he too was a man, flesh and bones. Not only was Jesus succumbed to the trials and tribulations we face here on earth, he was also betrayed, falsely accused and succumbed to one of the most violent and mortifying deaths we will ever read about in history.Yet we ask God " Why do you make us suffer?". God too also suffered here on earth. He wasn't the only one to suffer either. Every single one of his disciples were eventually murdered for sharing the good news which is that Jesus, the messiah that the prophets once spoke about, had finally come to die for our sins and then rose again. That is the Gospel! And none of his disciples were ever disillusioned or misinformed. They were aware they would suffer, they were informed they would be killed for believing what they did and for sharing what they knew and yet they stood firm because it was all worth it. To suffer knowing that their steadfastness wasn't in vain and they would soon again see their king who was slain [I gave myself a round of applause for that bit of poetry just then!]. Keep pushing on For 4 years I suffered from Chronic insomnia which ultimately lead to me becoming severely ill, depressed and suicidal. I had this misinformed idea that being a Christian and asking for healing would guarantee 100% health but it doesn't work like that. Yes, God does heal people who are sick and yes most of the work Jesus did whilst he was here on earth was healing people that were sick, but he never said we wouldn't suffer within our bodies. In Psalm 73:26  King David said:

" My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever".  There is an understanding from King David (a very wise man) that we are merely flesh and bones, we will get sick, we will become poorly, our health will deteriorate and eventually we will die. There are no two ways about it and it can't be avoided. However God reminds us in so many of his scriptures that it's good for the soul to suffer and still do good rather than to suffer and do evil.  Why is it better to suffer and do good? Well first of all you build character, you become stronger mentally and in some instances you become physically stronger. Take going to the gym for example, some may love it and some may hate it but ultimately our bodies are made to suffer, temporarily. Those who continue to go to the gym 3,4,5,6,7 times a week share an understanding that 1) the pain and the suffering is temporary and 2) there is physical and muscular growth at the end of the suffering.  It's similar to our walk here on earth. We will suffer, no two ways about it. People will damage us physically or emotionally, we will become ill [some becoming terminally ill] and we may even face death/persecution but the pain and the suffering is temporary because one day we'll go to heaven and live for eternity, with no pain and no suffering.  How do I know that? Just look at  Romans 8:35.  Paul writes to the church in Rome and says: " Who shall separate us from the love of christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?" and in  Revelation 2:10 John wrote at a time when Christians were being persecuted:  " Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for then ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life"   However, whilst we are here on earth, suffering, God reminds us in 1 peter 2:19 - 21  "For this is a gracious thing, when mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly"  We grow when we suffer and persevere through the pain. When I lost my 3 friends and another friend the following year, I suffered immensely but I used it as a catalyst to make something of myself and do them proud.God used my pain for good.  After suffering from  Chronic insomnia and depression for 4 years and recovering from it, I built up a resilience but I was also able to help and support those who were going through similar issues. If I had taken my life on the many nights I had planned to do so, I never would have been able to support others going through the same problems now. God can use any situation and turn it into good and he can use anybody to do things they could never imagine. Whatever it is you're going through, remember this. We can't avoid pain or suffering, God knows what you're going through..he has even experienced it himself. But if you can endure and do good, just as Jesus showed us how to .. it is well with your soul and it will one day be over.








In loving memory of Jess, Idris, Raymond and David. 10 years on 25.08.07 Since their deaths.