The New Testament and the Problem of Suffering
A major challenge that is faced by Christianity is finding reconciliation where there is suffering as well as an all-powerful God. God is powerful and He can eradicate this problem to do away with suffering on earth. Jesus Christ who is God’s Son showed His power in the gospel when he performed miracles that overpowered suffering. For instance, he healed the sick, fed the hungry and raised the dead. This research paper will focus on The New Testament and the Problem of Suffering.
In the gospel as written by John, Jesus always taught people that suffering played a vital role in the life of every person who wanted to inherit God’s kingdom. This paper aims at addressing this question, “why does God who is so loving allows the people who He loves to suffer?” This question will be answered on the basis of five perspectives that will be derived from John 4:1-30, Hebrews 12 1-13, John 9: 1-41, 1Peter 2: 18-25 and a contemporary example.
The basis of this chapter is a talk that Jesus had with a Samaria woman at a well. This story depicts Jesus as a Winner of Souls who helps sinners avoid what makes them suffer. This story further indicates that the world is full of suffering and evil. Jesus offers redemption that brings happiness to mankind. The woman found Jesus at the well while coming to draw water. According to the sixth verse of this chapter, the time was about mid day. It was not normal for a woman to draw water at such time according to the Samaritan and Jewish traditions. Therefore, this was an unusual case. Normally, women drew water during the morning hours because temperatures were low at such times. Nevertheless, this woman did not have any company while going to the well to draw water. This indicates that she may have been an outcast of the society.
On the basis of the conversation that she had with Jesus, the woman was facing discrimination from other women in her society even her relatives. Based on their conversation from verse 16 to 18, which say, “He said, “Go call your husband and then come back. I have no husband, she said. That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”
This context shows the importance of suffering which revels God’s power in providing appropriate solutions to human problems. Such an experience indicates that humanity needs higher power’s intervention. Jesus provides a solution to the problems of this woman by offering her the living water. The woman leaves Jesus and on returning to her community, she informs other members about the meeting that she had with a Redeemer.
There were several healing miracles that were performed by Jesus. In this case, Jesus healed a man that did not have a sight from the day he was born. This instance revealed the power of Jesus in helping people in desperate circumstances as well as the gracious work that he did for the souls that were suffering. From verse 1-7, Jesus told people not to see such sufferings as special punishments for humanity.
Instead, they should be seen as indicators of God’s glory through the manifestation of the great works that He does. Jesus acknowledged God’s power in verse 4 when He said that He must execute His duties the way His Father requires of Him. This implies that there were defined duties that Jesus had to perform during His time on earth. God’s work was what He was required to do.
It is important for humanity to believe Jesus’ work because he is God’s son. The man who was blind since the time of his birth fulfilled Jesus’ mission on earth because his suffering made the Jews as well as other society members to believe in Jesus as God’s son who had powers that were able to overrule nature. The Jews’ disbelief of the claims of the man that he was born sightless and that Jesus healed him is described in verses 18 to 23. 2
The Jews went to question the parents of the man before believing that Jesus healed him. For Jesus’ testimony to be promoted, the parents of the man acknowledged that the man was their son and that he could speak about his blindness himself. The focus of the testimony of this man was on his past life when he was blind as well as his present when he can see. He said, “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began, was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.”  The blind man’s suffering revealed God’s power. Despite being all powerful the way this case of a blind man depicts, God allows people to suffer so that he can reveal how great His power is.
Hebrews 12: 1-13
Verses 1 to 13 focus on obedience and perseverance. This perseverance can only be realized when one believes in Jesus. This perseverance is witnessed while racing. While racing, people face numerous difficulties and these can hinder them from achieving their goals. Nevertheless, the desire to emerge victorious after the race is the main objective of a runner. Each Christian should run the race of life in order to emerge victorious regardless of the suffering that they face. Suffering exists in such a context to help the runner realize that putting in some efforts and persevering in believing in Jesus will enable them to realize the happiness that they will enjoy in world that is free of trouble.
The Hebrews book urges all Christians to avoid fainting when faced with trials because they are characterized by a tendency to grow pale and weary when faced with sufferings.4 Regardless of the fact that enemies will plan evils against Christians, they should understand that God chose them and that He considers their afflictions. His goal is to offer a solution that will last forever. When faced with suffering, Christians should not tire. They ought to embrace patience and faith in their God. Suffering exists in the world as a means that God uses sometimes to correct humans rather than to condemn them. By being patience, Christians realize that their holiness is promoted by suffering and that they should learn that the suffering that they face due to man’s wickedness is a correction that God brings to them to enhance their spiritual nourishment.
4 Peter O’Brian, The Letter to the Hebrews. Apollos Nottingham, England (2010): pp. 455-456.
5 Bob Deffinbaugh, The Submission of the Slaves to Masters ( 1 Peter 2:18-25). Bible.org: para.
1 Peter 2: 18-25
The essence of a slave submitting to the master totally regardless of the kind of treatment that the slave is subjected to is confirmed by this book. In Christianity’s context, Peter says that, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” 5. Here, Peter instructs Christians to submit to their authorities when faced with suffering in order to achieve a Godly crown. The major theme of this chapter is suffering because Peter concurs with the fact that a Christian slave is likely to suffer more abuse because he/she will be subjected to the desires of the master.
Although the salve might suffer abuse, they should not use this as an excuse for committing sin. Instead, the slave should follow an example that Jesus depicted when He was persecuted yet he had not sinned. Peter says, “…because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.”6
Contemporary Example of Suffering
An earthquake of a magnitude of 7.0 hit Haiti in the January of 2012. This was among the worst calamities or disasters to hit an urban area in the modern world. Over 2000 people were killed by this disaster while over 2 million people were left homeless. Several schools, homes as well as other infrastructural developments were also destroyed. Several families were devastated and they wondered whether an all-powerful God governed this kind of suffering. Today, Haiti as well as other countries remains susceptible to such calamities that can subject people to suffering and deaths. 7
My Own Opinion
The focus of John’s gospel is on suffering manifestation on earth as a means of revealing God’s power. There were numerous miracles that were performed by Jesus when He healed the sick and revelations that he made to the people. He revealed Samaritan woman’s secrets in the book of John 4: 1-30. This indicates that God is aware of the suffering of men and He has a solution that will last forever. This was also the case when Jesus healed a man that was blind since his birth. This man is relieved of the suffering that he was enduring. John 9: 1-41 indicates that due to this suffering, the man was considered an outcast of the society. However, this suffering revealed God’s purpose in this world that is filled with evil.
In Hebrews 12: 1-13, the hardship that man endures and experiences are demonstrated as being caused by his wrongdoings. As such, suffering is a means that God uses to punish his children who make mistakes. Christians need to persevere while faced with sufferings. They ought not to use their sufferings as their excuse for committing sins. Instead, they should live as per the example that Jesus demonstrated when He endured suffering yet he was sinless. There is a question regarding the New Testament’s teachings and the earthquake devastation in Haiti. The New Testament provides an explanation that does not offer sufficient reasons why destruction and deaths that are characterized by the results of the earthquake had to occur. No reasons whatsoever provide an explanation why a God who loves his people can allow natural forces to cause this kind of destruction to them as a way of revealing His power. The Haiti earthquake was as a result of tectonic shifts and it was a natural event which had social, emotional, as well as economic challenges that affected not only Haiti but other global states as well.8
References: Mark Schuller and Pablo Morales. Tectonic Shifts: Haiti since the Earthquake, Sterling, Va: Kumarian Press(2012): pp. 53.
Abrams, Cooper. A Commentary on the Gospel of John 4. 2013.Retrieved on Nov 19, 2013
Apple, Paul. Sanctified Suffering: Commentary on the Book of Peter 1, 1997. Retrieved
on Nov 19, 2013 from http://bibleoutlines.com/library/pdf/1peter.pdf
Deffinbaugh, Bob. The Submission of the Slaves to Masters ( 1 Peter 2:18-25). Bible.org,
Retrieved on Nov 19, 2013 from https://bible.org/seriespage/submission-slaves-masters-1-peter-218-25
Lies, Anne. The Earthquake in Haiti. Edina, Minn: ABDO Pub, 2011.
O’Brian, Peter. The Letter to the Hebrews. Apollos Nottingham, England, 2010.
Retrieved on Nov 19, 2013 from http://www.wtsbooks.com/common/pdf_links/9780802837295.pdf
Schuller, Mark, and Pablo Morales. Tectonic Shifts: Haiti since the Earthquake. Sterling,
Va: Kumarian Press, 2012.
Truex, Jerry. The Devine Light Is within You. Sermons for Lent. Retrieved on
Nov 19, 2013 from http://www.mcswichita.net/Sermons/Sermon-126-Mar-2-2008-TheDivineLightIsWithinYou-Jn-9.1-41.pdf
 Cooper Abrams, A Commentary on the Gospel of John 4 (2013): para. 9 .
 Jerry Truex, The Devine Light is within You. Sermons for Lent (2008): pp. 1-4
3 Truex, The Devine Light is within You, p. 6