cross / suffering / referendum

40 Key Quotes on the Problem of Suffering

7 March 2023

6.8 MINS

We need comfort and perspective in our trials.

Suffering is a universal condition, something we all experience. The Christian message is unique in that it presents us with a suffering servant (Jesus, the Son of God) Who entered into our world, identified with us, and suffered for us. So we worship a God Who knows all about suffering, and because of the suffering of Christ, He promises us a day is coming when all suffering will end and all tears will be wiped from our eyes.

Millions and millions of words have been written on this topic, and there is no end to great writers to choose from. So many have known all about deep suffering, and God’s grace in it. In some of my earlier articles, I feature many quotes from some of them.

For example, Elizabeth Elliot knew all about suffering and wrote eloquently about it, so I have already featured many of her inspiring remarks. See here.

Disciples

So many others have also been through so much, and have written about a gracious God Who meets us in the depths of our sufferings. So here are 40 quotes from 32 authors that should inspire us all to persevere as we walk through deep waters and go through dark times:

“God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.”
~ Augustine

“Suffering, then, is the badge of true discipleship.
The disciple is not above his master.
Following Christ means passio passiva,
suffering because we have to suffer.
That is why Luther reckoned suffering
among the marks of the true Church.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“As our greatest good comes through the sufferings of Christ,
so God’s greatest glory that He hath from His saints comes through their sufferings.”
~ Thomas Brooks

“There is a twofold hedge that God makes about His people.
There is the hedge of protection, to keep evil from them;
and the hedge of affliction, to keep them from evil.”
~ John Bunyan

“Whomever the Lord has adopted and deemed worthy of His fellowship ought to prepare themselves for a hard, toilsome, and unquiet life, crammed with very many and various kinds of evil.”
~ John Calvin

“To choose to suffer means that there is something wrong;
to choose God’s will even if it means suffering is a very different thing.
No healthy saint ever chooses suffering;
he chooses God’s will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not.”
~ Oswald Chambers

“We often learn more of God under the rod that strikes us,
than under the staff that comforts us.”
~ Stephen Charnock

“The best we can hope for in this life is a knothole peek at the shining realities ahead. Yet a glimpse is enough. It’s enough to convince our hearts that whatever sufferings and sorrows currently assail us aren’t worthy of comparison to that which waits over the horizon.” ~ Joni Eareckson Tada

“What is this great symbol of the Christian faith? It’s a symbol of suffering. That is what the Christian faith is about. It deals head-on with this question of suffering, and no other religion of the world does that. Every other religion, in some way, evades the question. Christianity has, at its very heart, this question of suffering.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot

“If we learn to know God in the midst of our pain, we come to know Him as one who is not a High Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He is one who has been over every inch of the road. I love that old hymn by Richard Baxter, ‘Christ leads me through no darker rooms than He went through before.’ I love those words.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot

“God is all-good: no other god has wounds. At the very heart of the Bible is a God who cares and comes to the aid of those who look to him. In contrast to the Eastern religions, the biblical response to evil and suffering is one of engagement, not detachment. And in contrast to secularist beliefs, we are not on our own as we fight evil…” ~ Os Guinness

“God would not rub so hard if it were not to fetch out the dirt that is ingrained in our natures. God loves purity so well He had rather see a hole than a spot in His child’s garments.” ~ William Gurnall

“Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces.” ~ Matthew Henry

“There is, as we saw, one good reason for not believing in God: evil. And God Himself has answered this objection not in words but in deeds and in tears. Jesus is the tears of God.” ~ Peter Kreeft

“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. … The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” ~ C. S. LewisThe Problem of Pain ~ C.S. Lewis

“Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.” ~ C. S. Lewis

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
~ C. S. Lewis

“Affliction is the best book in my library.”
~ Martin Luther

“They gave our Master a crown of thorns.
Why do we hope for a crown of roses?”
~ Martin Luther

Clearer Perspective

“I fear you will never arrive at an understanding of God so long as you cannot bring yourself to see the good that often comes as a result of pain. For there is nothing, from the lowest, weakest tone of suffering to the loftiest acme of pain, to which God does not respond. There is nothing in all the universe which does not in some way vibrate within the heart of God. No creature suffers alone; He suffers with His creatures and through it is in the process of bringing His sons and daughters through the cleansing and glorifying fires, without which the created cannot be made the very children of God, partakers of the divine nature and peace.” ~ George MacDonald

“In every time and in every age, this is demonstrated to us, and I think in our time, it’s been marvellously demonstrated by Solzhenitsyn and the other heroic people from the Soviet labour camps, all of whom say the same thing — the ones that have achieved spiritual perception through it — that there they learned this point, that it’s through the affliction that you can see reality and that, therefore, as Solzhenitsyn himself says in his Gulag book, ‘Thank you, prison camp, for bringing this illumination into my life which otherwise I would have lost’.” ~ Malcolm Muggeridge

“Learning from experience means, in practice, learning from suffering; the only schoolmaster. Everyone knows that this is so, even though they try to persuade themselves and their fellows otherwise. Only so is it possible to understand how it came about that, through all the Christian centuries, people have been prepared to accept the Cross, ostensibly a symbol of suffering, as the true image and guarantee of their creator’s love and concern for them.” ~ Malcolm Muggeridge

“Preach to the suffering and you will never lack a congregation.
There is a broken heart in every pew.” ~ Joseph Parker

“Afflictions are light when compared with what we really deserve. They are light when compared with the sufferings of the Lord Jesus. But perhaps their real lightness is best seen by comparing them with the weight of glory which is awaiting us.” ~ Arthur W. Pink

“This is God’s universal purpose for all Christian suffering:
more contentment in God and less satisfaction in the world.”
~ John Piper

“When God wants to do an impossible task,
He takes an impossible man and crushes him.”
~ Alan Redpath

When I am in the cellar of affliction,
I look for the Lord’s choicest wines.”
~ Samuel Rutherford

”There are no lessons so useful as those learned in the school of affliction.”
~ J. C. Ryle

“Are you bruised? Be of good comfort, He calls you.
Conceal not your wounds, open all before Him and… go to Christ…
There is more mercy in [Him] than sin in [you].”
~ Richard Sibbes

“Why do bad things happen to good people?
That only happened once and He volunteered.”
~ R. C. Sproul

“God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart. When you are so weak that you cannot do much more than cry, you coin diamonds with both your eyes. The sweetest prayers God ever hears are the groans and sighs of those who have no hope in anything but His love.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

“I am afraid that all the grace that I have got of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable… Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house. It is the best book in a minister’s library.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

“God is chiselling you, making you into the image of Christ. None can be like the Man of Sorrow unless they have sorrows too.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

“The road to sorrow has been well trodden — it is the regular sheeptrack to heaven, and all the flock of God have had to pass along it.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

“At the timberline where the storms strike with the most fury, the sturdiest trees are found.”
~ Hudson Taylor

“Romans 8:28 is a soft pillow for a tired heart.”
~ R. A. Torrey

“Christianity is not the removal of suffering,
but the addition of grace to endure suffering triumphantly.”
~ Thomas Watson

“If you knew the value of trials,
you would praise God for them more than for anything.”
~ Smith Wigglesworth

“The Bible makes no rosy promises about living only in springtime. Instead, it points toward faith that helps us prepare for arid seasons. Harsh winters will come, followed by scorching summers. Yet if the roots of faith go deep enough, tapping into Living Water, we can survive the drought times and flourish in times of plenty.” ~ Philip Yancey

“We shouldn’t pray for a lighter load to carry, but a stronger back to endure! Then the world will see that God is with us, empowering us to live in a way that reflects His love and power.” ~ Brother Yun

___

Originally published at CultureWatch. Photo by Ryan Delfin.

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