This is Part 3 of 6 parts answering the question, “How long does God allow suffering to continue?” in the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?” Parts 4-6 will be posted on succeeding days.
Suffering in Time for the Believer Will Seem Light
No suffering is pleasant. The duration of suffering is always too long and too painful! However, there are at least two truths that we should remember regarding all suffering in light of eternity. First, the Divine discipline previously discussed is designed by the love of God for our good, but it is still painful. The writer to the Hebrews wrote, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12:11 NKJ) I have experienced much Divine discipline in different forms. Sometimes circumstances in my life would become traumatic, or I would receive a sharp rebuke from someone who genuinely cared and “carefronted” me in a Biblical way. The after-effect is a “peaceable fruit of righteousness” as humility turns the pain into a blessing.
Secondly, pain in this life will seem light. When the believer has the right focus on Jesus Christ and eternity, he can acquire Paul’s perspective,
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17-18 NKJ)
For most people, their agony does not seem like “light affliction.” The passage above may even “seem” insulting. But do any of us understand the agony that our sin caused the Lord Jesus Christ? He was silent during the six illegal trials, silent as the soldiers mocked and beat on Him with their rods, and silent when He went through the whip thrashing. None of us could have been silent during that brutal treatment as Jesus was. In fact, he didn’t cry out until He was hanging on the cross and God the Father made Him to be “sin.” This separation from the Father caused Jesus, as God the Son, to cry out (Matt. 27:46). Yes,the pain we experience may be real, horrible and extensive! However, it is not anything like what Jesus went through for you and me. One day, when the glory is revealed, the “light affliction” will seem to be just that.
Suffering Continues in Eternity For the Unbeliever
However, suffering will continue for eternity for the unbeliever. What he begins to experience while on earth is only a beginning of his anguish. This torment is caused by rejection of a loving God’s good news that Jesus died for his sins. He can remove the penalty of sin by simply accepting the gracious gift God the Father provides through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. Once a person trusts in Jesus Christ, his suffering will be confined to his earthly life in time as stated in the above verses.
But not so for the unbeliever. He will suffer during his time on earth and for all eternity, when he is condemned at the Great White Throne judgment,
11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:11-15 NKJ)
Again, John recorded the unbeliever’s torments in the lake of fire, “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Rev 21:8 NKJ)
If you have not placed your faith in Jesus Christ, do so today, that you might be transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Avoid the eternal punishment of everlasting fire by accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. He died for you!
Part 4 will be posted tomorrow.