Understanding Grace and Suffering: Exploring the Connection in Bible Study

Bible Study About Grace: Part Nine – Grace And Suffering

Pastor Duke Taber

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Introduction

Throughout our study on grace, we have seen how God’s unmerited favor saves us, sanctifies us, and empowers us for holy living. But what about when life gets hard? What about when we face trials, struggles, and suffering? Is God’s grace still relevant in these times? Does it have anything to offer us in the midst of pain?

The resounding answer from Scripture is yes. In fact, it is often in the crucible of suffering that we experience God’s grace most profoundly. Grace does not promise us a life free from hardship, but it does provide comfort, strength, and hope in the midst of it. In this study, we will explore what the Bible teaches about grace in suffering and how we can experience God’s sustaining grace in our own trials.

Reflect:

  • What comes to mind when you think about the relationship between grace and suffering?
  • Why do you think it’s important to understand the role of grace in times of hardship?
Bible Study About Grace: Part Nine - Grace And Suffering

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The Reality of Suffering

Before we dive into how grace meets us in suffering, it’s important to acknowledge the reality and universality of suffering. The Bible does not shy away from the fact that hardship and pain are part of the human experience in a fallen world.

In the Old Testament, we see Job, a righteous man, enduring incredible loss and physical affliction. The Psalms are filled with cries of anguish and pleas for deliverance from suffering. The prophets lament over the suffering of God’s people due to their sin and the sins of others.

In the New Testament, Jesus Himself acknowledges that in this world we will have trouble (John 16:33). Paul speaks of the whole creation groaning under the weight of sin’s curse (Romans 8:22). And the book of Revelation portrays the ultimate end of suffering for believers, implying its presence until then.

Suffering can come in many forms – physical, emotional, relational, financial, spiritual. It can be the result of our own sin, the sins of others, or simply the brokenness of the world. But regardless of its source, suffering is a reality that we all face to varying degrees.

Key Verses:

  • “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.” (Job 14:1)
  • “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)

Reflect:

  • How have you personally experienced suffering in your life?
  • How do you typically respond to hardship or pain? Do you tend to turn towards God or away from Him?

Grace in the Midst of Suffering

So how does grace meet us in our suffering? How does it provide comfort and strength in times of trial? Let’s explore a few key ways.

Grace Reminds Us of God’s Presence

One of the most profound ways grace ministers to us in suffering is by reminding us of God’s presence with us. When we are in pain, it’s easy to feel alone, abandoned, or even punished by God. But grace assures us that God has not left us and will never forsake us.

In the Old Testament, God’s presence with His people is a recurring theme, often connected to His covenant faithfulness and steadfast love (hesed). Moses appeals to God’s presence as the distinguishing mark of Israel (Exodus 33:16). The Psalms frequently celebrate God’s presence as a source of comfort, protection, and joy, even in times of trouble (e.g., Psalm 23:4; 46:1).

In the New Testament, Jesus’ very name, Immanuel, means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). He promises His disciples, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). And Paul assures believers that nothing, including hardship and persecution, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-39).

When we are suffering, grace reminds us that God is with us. He has not abandoned us, even if our feelings say otherwise. His presence is our comfort, our strength, and our hope.

Key Verses:

  • “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
  • “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Reflect:

  • Have you ever felt God’s presence in a special way during a time of suffering? What was that experience like?
  • How can you remind yourself of God’s presence the next time you face hardship?

Grace Provides Strength

Another way grace meets us in suffering is by providing strength to endure. When we are in pain, our own resources can quickly run dry. We may feel like we can’t go on, like the burden is too heavy to bear. But grace offers us a supernatural strength, a divine enabling to persevere.

Paul knew this grace-given strength well. He speaks of it often in his letters, usually in the context of his own sufferings for the sake of the gospel. In 2 Corinthians 12, he recounts his experience of a “thorn in the flesh,” some kind of painful trial that he repeatedly asked God to remove. But God’s response to Paul was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

This is a profound principle of grace: God’s strength is perfected in our weakness. When we are at our weakest, God’s power can most clearly be seen. As Paul goes on to say, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Grace provides the strength we need in our times of weakness and suffering.

This same grace-given strength is available to all believers. As Paul prays in Ephesians 3:16, “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” When we rely on God’s grace, we find the strength to endure, to persevere, and even to rejoice in our sufferings (Romans 5:3).

Key Verses:

  • “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
  • “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Reflect:

  • How have you experienced God’s strength in times of weakness or suffering?
  • What does it mean to you that God’s power is made perfect in weakness?

Grace Provides Comfort

In addition to strength, grace also provides profound comfort in our suffering. When we are hurting, we need more than just intellectual answers or religious platitudes. We need the tangible comfort of God’s presence and care.

The God of the Bible is described as “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). He is not aloof from our pain, but intimately acquainted with it. In fact, through the incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus, God has entered into human suffering in the most profound way possible.

Isaiah 53, the great Old Testament prophecy of the suffering Messiah, describes Jesus as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). On the cross, Jesus took on the full weight of human sin and suffering, experiencing the agony of separation from the Father. He is a Savior who understands our pain, who has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4).

Because of Jesus’ suffering for us, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence, knowing we will find mercy and grace to help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). We can cast all our anxieties on Him, knowing He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). We can find comfort in knowing that our Savior empathizes with our weaknesses and sufferings (Hebrews 4:15).

Moreover, the Holy Spirit is described as the Comforter or Helper (John 14:16, 26). He ministers to us in our pain, offering the comfort and consolation of God. As Paul writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Key Verses:

  • “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
  • “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Reflect:

  • How does knowing that Jesus understands and has experienced suffering impact the way you view your own trials?
  • In what ways have you experienced God’s comfort in times of suffering?

Suffering and Spiritual Growth

While God’s grace provides comfort and strength in the midst of suffering, it also uses suffering as a means of spiritual growth. The Bible consistently presents suffering, while not good in itself, as a tool in God’s hands to develop our character and faith.

James writes, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3). Paul echoes this sentiment in Romans 5:3-4: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Suffering, when met with faith and reliance on God’s grace, can produce in us qualities like perseverance, character, and hope.

Moreover, suffering can deepen our relationship with God. Often, it is in the dark valleys of life that we cling most closely to our Shepherd. Suffering can strip away our self-reliance and drive us to dependence on God. As Paul testifies, “For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

Suffering can also increase our empathy and compassion for others who suffer. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:4, God “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” Our own experience of God’s grace in suffering equips us to minister that same grace to others.

Importantly, the spiritual growth that can come from suffering is not automatic. It requires a response of faith, a choice to trust in God’s goodness and sovereignty even in the midst of pain. But when we do respond in faith, we find that God’s grace is more than sufficient to see us through and to use our trials for our ultimate good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

Key Verses:

  • “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
  • “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)

Reflect:

  • How have you seen suffering lead to spiritual growth in your own life or in the lives of others?
  • How can we cultivate a response of faith when facing trials and suffering?

Grace and Hope

Ultimately, the grace that sustains us in suffering also points us to a future hope. The comfort and strength we experience in the midst of trials are a foretaste of the complete redemption and restoration that awaits us in Christ.

The Bible is clear that the suffering of this present time is not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). For believers, suffering is temporary, but glory is eternal. As Paul writes, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

This future hope is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His resurrection is the guarantee of our own future resurrection, when all things will be made new and every tear will be wiped away (Revelation 21:4). In that day, suffering will be no more, and we will experience the fullness of God’s grace and glory.

But this hope is not just future; it has present implications. Because of the hope we have in Christ, we can face trials and suffering with courage, knowing that they are not the final word. We can persevere in faith, knowing that our labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). And we can minister hope to others who are suffering, pointing them to the grace that sustains and the glory that awaits.

As Peter writes, “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4). This is the hope that grace provides in the face of suffering – a living, unshakable, eternal hope.

Key Verses:

  • “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3)
  • “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

Reflect:

  • How does the future hope we have in Christ impact the way you view present sufferings?
  • How can you hold onto hope in the midst of trials? How can you extend that hope to others who are suffering?

Conclusion

As we’ve seen throughout this study, God’s grace is not absent in suffering; it is most powerfully present. Grace meets us in our pain, providing comfort, strength, and hope. It reminds us of God’s presence with us, assures us of His power perfected in our weakness, and points us to the future glory that awaits us.

Moreover, grace can use our sufferings as a means of spiritual growth, deepening our faith, character, and dependence on God. It can also equip us to minister comfort and hope to others who are suffering.

None of this minimizes the reality or the difficulty of suffering. The Bible does not offer cheap answers or easy solutions to the problem of pain. But it does offer us something far greater: the presence and grace of a God who has entered into our suffering, who empathizes with our pain, and who is working all things, even our trials, for our ultimate good and His glory.

May we, in the face of suffering, cling to this grace. May we allow it to comfort us, strengthen us, and transform us. And may we point others to the God of all grace, who gives us hope in the midst of pain and promises us a future glory beyond all comparison.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

Reflect:

  • Take a moment to bring your own sufferings and trials to God. Ask Him to meet you with His grace, to comfort you with His presence, and to strengthen you with His power.
  • How can you be a channel of God’s grace to someone else who is suffering? Is there someone you can reach out to with a word of comfort, encouragement, or hope?
  • Spend some time meditating on the future hope we have in Christ. How can this hope anchor your soul in the midst of life’s storms?

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