Focus on the Family

When We Suffer: A Biblical Perspective on Chronic Pain and Illness

Why we suffer may always remain a mystery on this side of eternity. We can, however, glean certain truths from God's Word.

by Mary J. Yerkes

If God loves us, why do we suffer? Christian or not, it's a question that comes up repeatedly during times of grief and tragedy. In times of distress, we want to know that our suffering matters to God and that He cares about our pain.

"Sometimes a fresh word may, in fact, be a very old one," write Joni Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes in When God Weeps—Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty.

1"Truths that are timeless often need only the 'time' brushed away in order to reveal the polished patina that has gleamed all along."

Pastor Tim Hager, an associate minister in the Washington D.C. area, asserts that we suffer because we live in a fallen world.

"When sin entered the world, death entered," he says. "Chronic pain, illness, and disease are a form of death."

Despite this harsh reality, Richard C. Leonard, a minister with a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies, urges the chronically ill to take their questions to God rather than allow them to become a wedge in their relationship with Him.

"Follow the example of the Psalmists," he says, "who sometimes cry out to God as though taking Him to task for their problems, but who persist in their conversation with Him; eventually [they received] an answer, reinforcing His faithfulness to His servants."

Suffering, in many ways, remains a mystery, one that we will never fully understand this side of eternity. We can, however, glean these truths from God's Word:

Simply put, when we seek God through His Word and prayer, we find Jesus. Remember, Jesus understands our pain because he, too, suffered.

We read the words of Psalm 22:1: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?"

Did God abandon His Son in His hour of need? We find the answer three days later—God raised Him from the dead! Because of this promise, we have hope for our future.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).


1Tada, Joni Eareckson and Steven Estes, When God Weeps—Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty, Grand Rapids, Zondervan Publishing House, 1997, p. 8.
2Piper, John and Justin Taylor, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, Wheaton, Crossway Books, 2006, p. 112.