Suffering through hard times are about as much fun as jabbing a pencil into your eye; nobody likes it, and, baring any need for said pain, events like that are often best left inexperienced. In the same way, ask anyone on the street if they would like for them to lose someone they love, and I would imagine the vast majority would probably pass on such an offer. But nevertheless, these things do happen. People pass away, your dreams are shattered, and the perfect life that you envisioned for yourself is replaced by a realization that much of life is spent in some kind of turmoil, one way or the other.
For Christians, this type of thinking should be understood. Jesus even told us as such in His discourse as to what we as His disciples should expect in Matthew 10, capstoning it with verse 24: “A disciple is not above his master.” In short, whatever kind of tribulations Jesus received, we should also expect in our own life as well. And even though the persecutions talked about in the entirety of that chapter may not specifically happen to us (fleeing to another city, being delivered up to the courts, etc), there are still several more devices of Satan left to cause us to lose our faith, and we should be ready to go through them as well.
How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m just so tired of being a Christian”? Or heard a mother exclaim, “If God really loved me, He wouldn’t have allowed my son to die”? How many times have you yourself said, “My life is ridiculously bad, there’s no way God even hears my prayers”? In reality, many more people experience far worse than we do, and on an everyday basis. People in India who are used to watching their loved ones die from disease or starvation, deal with death far differently than we do. The fact that we didn’t make varsity football as a “sign” that God doesn’t love us is completely different than the father in the projects who has to wonder if he’s going to be able to afford rent this month. Suffering, as is beauty, is truly in the eyes of the beholder.
Social scientists have long emphasized that an average American’s perception of life is that it’s generally a nice place to be, that life is mostly fair, and that good people should expect to have good things happen to them. To have a random calamity occur then, must be a sign of a mistake in the past (ref. John 9:2). Suffering is seen as breaking the norm, an exception rather than the rule, and an affliction to be ignored until it goes away (similar to a mosquito bite). The truth is, suffering is very much a part of life, and the belief that it “shouldn’t happen to me,” is both deceptive and self-destructive. It causes you to lose faith in your beliefs about the world, and especially about who Jesus is. Rather an understanding that Jesus doesn’t rid you of your troubles, but simply your sins, simplifies the whole thing, and makes suffering understandable.
Acceptance of suffering as an inevitable fact rather than an anomaly doesn’t force one to lead a pessimistic life, but rather to walk with open eyes about the world. “In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).