Some of us may have learned that part of being a Christian means we will suffer. To a certain extent that is true. Jesus suffered while He walked with humanity. He confessed that the greatest act anyone could do to prove their love was to lay down their life for others. That was exactly what He did.
While reading “Who Do You Think You Are?” by Mark Driscoll, I found chapter 8 very interesting. In this chapter Mark discusses some reasons why we suffer. He doesn’t just contemplate suffering but instead he outlines literally 14 types of suffering!
It’s key to understand the various types of suffering because sometimes we humans tend to misdiagnose someone’s afflictions. That was the case in the book of Job. His three friends wrongly thought Job was hiding some sin and he needed to confess it.
I didn’t know there were so many types of suffering. This chapter really got me thinking about the things I’ve been going through. You might find it interesting as well.
- There is suffering associated with what happened in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of mankind. Natural effects of the fall can be seen all around us.
- There is punishment affliction when God judges unbelievers and punishes them for their sin. Mark Driscoll uses the example of Pharaoh and Egypt for this type of suffering.
- Of course, there is consequential suffering which is due to our own poor decisions. Who hasn’t made a dumb decision and not suffered for it? I’ll offer my own example here. Ten years ago I bought a dog against my husband’s wishes. I have lived to regret it, every time the dog pees in the house! My husband doesn’t let me forget that he didn’t want a dog to begin with!
- Then there are demonic afflictions, which I hope none of you have experienced! These are just as real as God Himself. These created beings have turned from God’s glorious light to darkness.
- Some suffer because of being a victim. Many are abused by others due to no fault of their own.
- There is something called collective affliction where you suffer due to the result of be part of a certain people group. The example used here were the Old Testament prophets who frequently repented not only for themselves but for their forefathers and their nation.
- There is a suffering related to disciplinary affliction. This is when God allows certain things to mature a person.
- There are times when others oppose you because you are in Christ, this is called vicarious affliction.
- Empathetic affliction occurs when someone you love is suffering.
- There are testimonial afflictions which are sufferings used as a demonstration of the gospel so others might come to a deeper appreciation for the grace offered through Christ. I have a neighbor who is married to a mentally ill, chemically-dependent, alcoholic husband, who is cruel with his words and unappreciative of his wife’s unconditional love. Yet their marriage is a shining example of grace, forgiveness, and unconditional love.
- There is providential affliction which is designed to teach us something about God.
- Preventative affliction is when we suffer something that urges us to get help for something greater going on. The example used here is a sharp pain in your right side as a warning of problems with your appendix.
- There is mysterious suffering when God chooses not to reveal why you are suffering. Job is a good example for this one.
- Lastly, the apocalyptic affliction which is suffering that will signal the end of this age.
Phew! That’s a lot of suffering. This really helped to open my eyes to see my own suffering from a different perspective. Not everything I go through is because I caused it. Not everything that happens is because Satan is doing it. Not everything bad is because God is testing me.
I hope this little taste of what is in this book will inspire you to get it and read the whole thing yourself. It’s a wonderful book about learning who you are in Christ.