A watchful man sees the signs of impending trouble, and prepares for it. God gave us warnings in the Bible for the same reason. Many scriptures warn against sin and the devil’s schemes. These warnings tell what corresponding action is needed to avert the problem we might encounter. The strongest warning is against refusing God’s offer of salvation, telling us a hell awaits those who reject Christ. The law and commandments in the Bible are given for our good, so that we will not suffer in the traps of the devil.
We may mistakenly believe that God is behind all suffering, if we do not understand its different forms. (The many Greek words translated as suffering carry either the basic meanings of “to permit” or “to endure”). Most of our suffering is the result of having broken spiritual and physical laws. This includes sickness, depression, fear, poverty, torment, loneliness, disorder, and confusion; all results of sin. Jesus suffered on the cross so we could be free of these things; and if we walk with Him, He leads us out of them. Suffering for Christ, however, is always by choice. It involves laying down our lives for others, because we choose to do so, even as Jesus did (John 10:17-18).
The Apostle Paul chose to suffer many things in obeying God’s call to preach the Gospel. Today in some countries, our brethren are imprisoned, tortured, or killed for their faith. There are many forms of suffering for the Lord’s sake that are by no means as great as these but are still valid. Some of us suffer when we leave our comfortable homes and go to mission fields across the world. We suffer for Christ by staying in a hard place, rather than finding an easy way out. We suffer for Him when we give up worldly gain for the sake of the kingdom. We suffer by “turning the other cheek.” We suffer by giving up what we could have in this present life, for the kingdom of God. Enduring illness, however, is not a form of suffering for Christ, since Jesus took upon Himself our illnesses. The Greek word, “sozo,” is used throughout the New Testament to mean both “to save” and “to heal.” God does not want us to keep our sickness any more than He wants us to keep our sin. If He paid for it on the cross, we do not have to bear it today (Isaiah 53:5).
When we lack the discernment to know whether our suffering is from Satan or something to be endured for Christ, we can be tricked into accepting things God would not have us bear. Obviously, if it does not agree with God’s Word, then God does not want us to embrace it. When in doubt, a good way to deal with problems of this nature is to bring them before the Lord with a submissive attitude, and ask Him to reveal what He would have us do (James 4:7-8). If God calls us to endure suffering, He will give us the grace and strength to pass through it victoriously. When Satan is behind it, it will drain us and destroy our peace. We can hide ourselves in Christ and He will keep us from the destruction planned for us by the devil. “Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, from the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about” (Psalm 17:8-9).