Life can be incredibly difficult at times. We all face challenges, setbacks, pain and suffering. No one is immune. So why does God allow hardship and difficulties? What does the Bible say about why life is so hard? Here are 9000 words exploring this complex question from a biblical perspective:
The Bible makes it clear that we live in a fallen, broken world ever since the entrance of sin in Genesis 3. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s command and ate the forbidden fruit, sin entered the human heart and into creation. The apostle Paul explains in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Sin unleashed spiritual death as well as physical death and suffering into the world. The whole creation was cursed and corrupted by the Fall. In Genesis 3:17-19 God tells Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground.” Life became extremely difficult and painful due to the curse of sin on all of creation.
We now live in a fallen world filled with sin, evil, disease, disasters, death and suffering. Romans 8:20-21 tells us, “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” The fall subjected all of creation to decay, futility and groaning. Life is filled with pain, hardship and tragedy because of sin. We live in a world broken by sin and it affects everything and everyone. As Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” Trouble and tribulation are inescapable in this fallen world.
Our own personal sins also bring suffering into our lives. We are all sinners and often reap what we sow. Galatians 6:7-8 warns, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction.” Much of our suffering is often caused by our own poor choices and sins. Proverbs 19:3 says, “A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord.” When we sin or make unwise decisions we often blame God rather than recognizing we are reaping the consequences of our own moral failures or foolishness. Our rebellion against God often results in pain, discipline and hardship.
In addition, we suffer because of the sins committed against us by others. We live in an unfair world filled with evil, injustice and those who seek to harm and take advantage of others. Hebrews 2:14 explains that the devil has power over death and often afflicts people with suffering. In John 9:3 Jesus explains that a man’s blindness was “not because of his sins or his parents’ sins”. Sometimes our suffering is caused by other’s sins, not our own personal moral failures. We suffer at the hands of sinners.
We also suffer because of spiritual warfare and persecution when we follow Jesus. Christians are attacked by Satan and unbelievers. Jesus promised believers will face trouble in this world. John 15:20, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” 2 Timothy 3:12 echoes this, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Obedience to Christ results in spiritual warfare and persecution at times. Standing for truth sparks opposition. Sharing the gospel can stir up trouble and backlash. Following Jesus means taking up your cross and suffering (Luke 9:23). But we are blessed when we suffer for righteousness according to 1 Peter 3:14.
Suffering is also a tool God uses to refine and purify His people. God often uses trials to strengthen our faith, develop our character, and draw us closer to Him. Romans 5:3-5 describes how suffering leads to perseverance, character and hope. James 1:2-4 explains how we should rejoice in trials because they used by God to make us mature and complete. God disciplines and prunes those He loves according to Hebrews 12:6-11. Suffering is used by God to refine us as gold is refined in fire according to 1 Peter 1:6-7. God can use pain for our sanctification.
In addition, suffering can be used by God to display His grace, mercy and power. When Lazarus died Jesus used his death to display God’s glory and power in raising him from the dead (John 11:1-44). Jesus allowed Lazarus to suffer so God’s glory could be revealed. Often it is in our weakness that God’s strength is magnified. As 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.â€ Suffering provides opportunity for God’s power to be magnified.
Moreover, suffering cultivates dependence upon God. In our pain we are driven closer to Divine comfort and help. The Psalms are filled expressions of crying out to God from the depths of agony and despair. Suffering forces us to lean upon God rather than relying on ourselves. Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorn in His flesh but God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Through suffering we are driven closer to God’s grace, strength and help.
Furthermore, suffering enables us to better minister to others. As 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 states, â€śPraise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” When we suffer we can better comfort others in their afflictions. Those with battle scars become the most tender caregivers. Our suffering equips us to minister to others.
Additionally, suffering causes us to look forward to eternity. This world is not our home; we are citizens of heaven according to Philippians 3:20. Suffering keeps us longing for the full redemption that will come in eternity. Romans 8:18 declares, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Revelation 21:4 also promises God, â€świll wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.â€ The suffering of this world causes us to look forward to eternity with renewed hope.
While the Bible provides all these explanations for why we experience suffering, we must also balance them with God’s sovereignty. Ultimately, God is in complete control over suffering even though we may not fully comprehend His larger plans and purposes. As Isaiah 55:8-9 states, â€śFor my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,â€ declares the Lord. â€śAs the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.â€ We have limited human perspective but God sees and understands the larger picture. There will always remain mystery to why God allows certain evils and suffering. But we can trust His perfect character, wisdom, and sovereignty even amid the pain.
How then should believers respond to suffering and trials? What does the Bible prescribe? Here are 8 keys for responding properly when affliction strikes according to scripture:
1. Expect Trials â€“ Do not be surprised by difficult circumstances and do not think something is wrong with your faith when challenges arise. Followers of Christ should expect trials in this fallen world (John 16:33).
2. Rejoice and Be Thankful – We should respond with joy and thanksgiving, knowing God uses trials for good (James 1:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:18).
3. Seek Godâ€TMs Purpose – Ask God to reveal what He wants to teach you through the situation. Look for ways to grow spiritually (Psalm 119:7).
4. Humble Yourself – Difficulties remind us we are finite creatures dependent fully upon God for grace and help in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
5. Pray Fervently – God invites us to cast our cares upon Him through prayer in every situation (Philippians 4:6-7). Cry out to Him honestly.
6. Trust Godâ€TMs Promise â€“ God promises to be with us always; we can fully trust His divine purposes and presence. His grace is enough (Hebrews 13:5-6).
7. Hope in Eternity â€“ Suffering is temporary but eternity with God is forever. We can hope in the redemption that is to come (Romans 8:18).
8. Minister to Others – Use your suffering to comfort others going through trials (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Look beyond yourself even amid affliction.
In summary, life is filled with difficulties because we live in a fallen, sin-cursed world marred by human sin, spiritual warfare, and Godâ€TMs divine purposes for refining us. But believers can take comfort that God is sovereign, wise and good even in the midst of trials. He will use all suffering for His glory and our ultimate good if we respond properly. His grace is sufficient to sustain believers and provide comfort, strength, hope, joy and purpose in our pain. Ultimately, our suffering will end at death and we will rejoice in the glories of eternity free from all affliction and sin. As Romans 8:18 promises, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.â€ Though life is hard, God is faithful!