Your suffering is a great enticement to Satan. He and his anti-God federation are irresistibly attracted to persistent pain.
Notice how he obsesses over Job’s misery. Notice how he shows up in the wilderness at the height of Jesus’s weakness (Matthew 4:1–11).
Satan is savvy enough to know that his lies are less effective during prosperity, so he waits until life is hard and we are more vulnerable (though he has plenty of weapons for our good times as well). Then, when he suggests that God does not love us, he suddenly sounds compelling. In other words, we need all our wits about us when suffering comes our way.
Does God love me? Am I suffering because I have done something to incur his displeasure? These can drift into questions about God himself. Is he good? Does he hear? Does he care?
Here are five possible ways to engage these questions.
1. The King Suffered, So I Suffer
In the Old Testament era, we would have had good reason to believe that God was either letting us go or chastising us in our suffering. Everything changes, however, when Jesus comes as the suffering servant, lives in poverty, is rejected by his closest friends, absorbs shame, submits to a gruesome death, and inaugurates the new covenant with God’s people. In this, he is celebrated as the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:15), the one who is fully God and fully human, our perfect representative and our King.
This creates a new story for us. Jesus, who is clearly loved by the Father, goes through the worst of suffering. We have been united with the Son, so we expect to know both suffering and love. As King Jesus goes, so go his people. If the King was not spared the hardships of this present world, we should not expect to be spared. This is why the apostle Paul boasted about his suffering. Those sufferings showed his connection to Jesus and to the Father’s favor (2 Corinthians 11:30).
With this in mind, we might better question God’s love for us if our lives are relatively trouble-free.