English Articles

God's intentions with suffering

    by Thomas Gerlach                vlag


The theme of suffering covers a broad territory. There must be room for difficult questions.


Suffering is the direct result of sin – each of us shall die. 

Example: the sin of David and its consequences. 2Sam.11-20 /1.Kgs 1-2 the intertwined network of sins and their consequences.

Suffering is the general result of the fall of man – attached to our being human. Rom.5:12.

Special suffering comes from God Job 1-2 (especially 2:3b) / James 1:12

  2. A) There are two kinds of suffering
  3. Sickness:persistence   pain          battle        restoration          = sadness
  4. Death:break-up      coldness   conquest   resurrection        = battle
  1. The goal of suffering is twofold:
  2. a) Suffering with a cause – suffering as a sinner.

. Sinners suffer as a result of the violation of ONE of God’s principles. God’s intention to put pressure: to have the effect of repentance.

. Sinners suffer as a result of a corrupt character. 

This can be caused by themselves, the family or the culture in which they were raised. Example: the criminal on the cross Luke 23:39-43 

God’s purpose with suffering is to prevent a more sinful behavior and to cause a desire for redemption.

The purpose is redemption through faith in the gospel.

. Sin has been forgiven, but the consequences have not been taken away. Example: David

  1. b) Suffering without a cause – suffering as a righteous man. 

Example: Job

. Exercise in holiness and obedience 

(Job 2:3b, Heb.5:7-9) 

. It goes together with the Body of Christ 

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.  (2.Tim.3:12)

The promise of entering into His rest, must be accepted in faith (Heb.4:1-2)

The matters mentioned below regards the believer – righteous through the redemption in Christ.

  1. Principles regarding suffering

. The principle of the grain of wheat in John 12:23-26 on producing much fruit by dying.

. The principle of education by the Father. Heb.12:4-13: Producing the fruit of righteousness.

  1. The Perspective in the suffering. Three logical steps according to Rom. 8:16-18.
  1. a) We are children of God, and if we are children, we are also heirs.
  2. b) If we suffer with Him, we will also be glorified with Him;
  3. c) The suffering of the present time is not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us;

It’s a fact that the believer will suffer: 2Tim.3:12: "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted".

It’s a fact that the believer shall be blessed: Mark 10:29-31: "Jesus said,  “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.“


Phil.3:8-11: "More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."

The ultimate goal of suffering in the life of the believer is the deep, mature fellowship with Christ. “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." Ephesians 4:13

In the suffering of the Christian, the focus lies on the will and the glory of God, and not on the human and his needs.

Justification out of mercy by faith changes the quality of the suffering.

  1. Suffering – a proof of the presence of faith

In suffering it becomes visible who my god is. 

. Which god gives you the power to go through, to endure? < LI> To endure sufferings is possible by accepting God’s sovereign actions against the suffering of the individual.

  1. Suffering – a proof of the quality of faith;

. Exercise in perseverance in life with God, to receive hope, faith and love (Heb. 12:1-3)

. Exercise in hope – the strongest weapon against all evil (Rom.5:1-5, 1.Pet.1:6-7)

. Exercise in patience – those who suffer are an example in faith (Heb.11:32-40)

Patience because of stubbornness and rebellion against patience because of a sanctified character

  1. Suffering – a proof of the power of faith

.in suffering the power of God is revealed in our lives

. Rom.8:35-39: we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered, but in all these things we will overwhelmingly conquer.

Spiritual weakness as a result of sin against the statement/verse "for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2Cor.12: 9-10)

  1. Suffering – sanctification through faith

.Suffering corrects my image of God

.Suffering delivers me from demons

.Suffering prevents me from sinning

.Suffering makes me focus my life on Christ.


  1. B) Suffering and death

Four different concepts of death



  1. 116:15 death of God’s favorites

            John 11 death of Lazarus

Mark 5:35-43 death of Talitha

Luke 7:11-16 death of the widow’s son

Acts 7: 59/Acts8:2 death of a believer Acts 20: 9-12 fall from the window sill

1Cor.11:30 death of the believer – dying

Heb.9:27 man dies only once

1Thes.4:13 there hope for the dead


  1. Condition

Lam.9:2-6 the dead knows nothing

Matt.22:32 not the God of the dead but the God of the living 

Luke 16:19-31 the rich man and poor Lazarus

Deu.25:5-6 continuation of the name of the dead

Ps. 143:3-4 dwelling in darkness

Job 14:13-14 hiding in Sheol

  1. Principle

Gen.2:17 when you eat from it, you shall die

Rom.5:12 death spread to all men

Rom.6:23 the wages of sin is death

Rom. 8:6 the mind of the flesh is death

Jn 5:24 the believer transferred from death into life

1Jn5:16 sin not leading to death

  1. Person 

Job 26:5-14 God rules over death

Exo.10:17 that He would remove this death from me

Lev.11:40 unclean when touching carcass

Rev.1:18 Jesus has the keys of death and Hades

Rev.2:11 will not be hurt by the second death

Rev.6:8 had the name Death; and Hades was following with him

Rev.20:14 death and Hades thrown into the lake of fire

1Cor.15:26 last enemy to be abolished is death

1Cor.15:55 death, where is your victory?

Deu.30:15 choose between life and death


  1. Suffering– the triumph of faith. The promise of Jesus to those who suffer: Matthew 5:3-12 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.


Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1Cor.1:18)



Religious glorification of suffering and death against loving Christ, the life and resurrection.

  1. B) Suffering and death


  1. C) Suffering without traumatization – death defeated

The seven words of Christ on the cross:

  1. 27:46: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?”
  2. Lk 23:34: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they're doing.”
  3. Luke 23:43; “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
  4. Jn19:26: "Woman, behold, your son!"... “Behold, your mother!”
  5. Jn 19:28: “I am thirsty.”
  6. Jn 19:30: “It is finished.”
  7. Luke 23:46: “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.


  1. A) Hatred against God’s education
  2. B) Possible reasons for the rejection of suffering
  3. Rejection of suffering because God is being blamed. Why God? What kind of God are You, and that You allow these things to happen? Why are You so hard on me? Where was God when this happened to me?

– Problem of the evangelicals that drift away from God, because they identify God as a punishing God. 
Possible consequence: aggression towards or fear for God – rebellion

  1. Rejection of suffering because of self-glorification.

Why is this happening to ME?

Tension field between self-protection and God’s intentions.

Possible consequence: severe depression, self-hatred, creating virtual reality.

  1. Rejection of suffering because of loving a certain sin or sinful behavior.

The rejection of the pattern: cause and consequence: “my sins have no consequences!”

Often startled due to the consequences that are inevitable.

Possible consequence: diverse psychosomatic and psychological problems.

  1. Rejection of suffering because of love to death.

Hatred against life can have different causes:

.traumatic events

.life in a religious system

.belief in the super man (demonic transformation)

.despise of weakness and suffering

Possible consequences: wanting to flee into death.

.Shamanistic near-to-death-experiences

.loss of unity in existence

.death of parts of the psyche

.parts of the existence are put at the service of demons

.”I have authority to lay down my life on my own initiative” (anti-John10:18).



In the Bible, there are three righteous men mentioned: Job, Daniel and Noah (Eze.14:14) Jam.5:10-11: As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”

Lesson 1 God is sovereign – God is love

Job shows us a glance in the heavenly places and we see how God challenges Satan - Job 1:8: a man as Job 

.blameless (righteous for God) 

.upright (sincere in his dealings with men)

.fearing God (right conception of and in relationship with God)

.turning away from evil (right attitude towards evil)

Goal of the test: proof of the quality of Job’s character

Satan despises Job, for according to him, Job is just religious (Job 1:9, 2:4) "Does Job fear God for nothing?"

God takes all responsibility for Job’s adversities. 

Job 2:3: "And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause."

Conclusion: Suffering has meaning for God


Lesson 2 Fear and believe

Job 1:21-22: "Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.”

Job 2:10: “Shall we indeed accept the good from God and not accept adversity?

Accepting his situation intellectually.

Analysis of Job 3:25: "For what I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me." There were indications in his life that pointed in the direction of the suffering. But he sought personal peace and safety. Satan struck him according to what he found in his flesh.

Conclusion: Suffering belongs to our character, our culture, our family, etc.


Lesson 3 Lamentation

Job falls into despair

. Job 3:3+8+11-17: he desires to be dead, has no longer fear for the curse of whatever power, he longs for the peace of Sheol

. Job 3:23: he views his situation from the perspective of Satan – God has taken away every way of escape from him 1:10: Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? 

. Job 6:2-10+26: pain produces words that are hard to understand: “Do you intend to reprove my words? When the words of one in despair belong to the wind?

. Job 6:14: he cries out for help from his friends – Christian counselors, yet his friends, do not comfort Job but themselves

Job calls them charlatans/worthless physicians (13:4), miserable comforters (16:2). The friends of Job are trying to comfort him according to their traditions and customs, but in this case it is not sufficient.

16:4-5: "I too could speak like you, if I were in your place. I could compose words against you and shake my head at you. I could strengthen you with my mouth, and the solace of my lips could lessen your pain”.

19:21: "Pity me, pity me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has struck me."

Job’s friends should be a serious admonition to every pastoral worker.

17:1: "My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished. The grave is ready for me."

Conclusion: the despair of a man cannot be condemned, but should be borne.


Lesson 4 Faith in the Redeemer and overcoming death

  1. a) Job’s accusation against God

. 2:10 " ..accept adversity from God"  (intellectual answer)

. 6:4 "the arrows of the Almighty are within me, ..The terrors of God are arrayed against me."

. 7:11-21 Job speaks to God and he is permitted to express his despair to God.

This is a very dangerous, but also a crucial moment. A lot of wisdom and a brave faith of the counselor is needed here.

Conclusion: desperation should be expressed.

  1. b) Job pleads his case before God

. 23:2-6 he trusts that God will pay attention to him

. 23:8-10 Job cannot see God, but he trusts that God knows his ways

. 23:10 he trusts in God’s good intention; “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold”.

. 16:11-12+4:12-16 Job detects the enemy that wants to destroy him, but he trusts that everything is according to God’s will.

Conclusion: God hears the desperate and gives confidence to him

  1. c) Job trusts his Advocate, his Redeemer

. 13:15 "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.”

. 16:18-21 he knows that God is his advocate and that he can call on God (Rom.8:26: "but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning(s) too deep for words.")

. 19:25-27 "As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth…Yet from my flesh I shall see God.”

Conclusion: Faith will stand, even if your situation is indeed that miserable


Lesson 5 The comfort of God

  1. a) Job 32-37 the comfort of the young counselor Elihu

. 33:4-7 the friendly approach towards Job

. 33:23-25 hope in the mediator and the ransom

. 34:10-30 description of God’s righteousness

. 35 the sinfulness of the human race

. 36:2-37:34 even more words from God

. 36:15-16 "He delivers the afflicted in their affliction, and opens their ear in time of oppression. Then indeed, He enticed you from the mouth of distress; Instead of it, a broad place with no constraint; And that which was set on your table was full of fatness."

. 36:29 preparation for God’s appearance in the storm

Conclusion: Teaching about God’s nature and human nature will identify the character of God in our observations on sufferings

  1. b) God’s comfort to an adult man – the almighty God and the suffering

. 38:3: "Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!" 
This is different from comforting a child. 

Purpose of the therapy: God’s comfort to the fullest is intended for the mature person.

. Where were you? Gods greatness (38-39) and my limitedness (40:3-5) is the greatest comfort

. 40:10-41:25 "Nothing on earth is like him, One made without fear. He looks on everything that is high; He is king over all the sons of pride" (Job 41:33-34)

God towards man; who wants to be his own helper?

Conclusion: the purpose of God is not the restoration of the old, but the maturity in faith

  1. c) Job has understood

.Job 42:2-6 "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes."

Conclusion: the greatest privilege for a man is to catch a glimpse of the holiness of God

© Door: Thomas Gerlach, theoloog St. Sebulon Zuflucht Marienheide, Duitsland, vertaald in het nederlands door Gerard Feller en in het engels door Ursula Moestapa


Categorie: English Articles