Six Myths About Suffering

One of the most unsettling questions people ask during times of suffering is, “Why do the righteous suffer and the unrighteous seem to prosper (Psalm 73: 3-10)?”  How we answer that question can spell the difference between victory or defeat during trying times.

It is a fact that suffering can destroy you or it can develop you. It can overthrow your faith or establish it, especially during long seasons or sudden tragedies. What makes our suffering a perilous ordeal is when we hold unbiblical ideas about it. When wrongly interpreting our pain, we can become the wardens of our own prisons. Here are six misconceptions about suffering that can keep us in a rut of defeat:

Myth #1 All Suffering Is a Result of Sin

Upon seeing a blind man, the disciples asked Jesus,  “Who sinned – this man or his parents?” Generational guilt was a natural assumption held in the Old Testament and during Jesus’ time ((Job 2:3; John 9:1–3). Jesus answered that suffering gives God an opportunity to display His power in the midst of a broken world. The Word also tells us that godly suffering can be a clear sign of divine favor (2 Tim. 3:12).

Myth # 2 Suffering Means That Life Is Bad

We received our culture from the Greeks who worshipped beauty and perfection. The Greeks saw beauty and perfection as going together. If something was perfect, it had to be beautiful, and if something was beautiful, it had to be perfect. This however does not work on a street level. If a person believes this, it must follow that when they are in an ugly situation, life is no longer perfect or beautiful. Paul countered this toxic myth by rattling off a list of ugly trials and tribulations and then declaring, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors” (Rom 8: 37).

Myth #3  “God is punishing me for what I did.”

This mindset occurs when we confuse God’s correction with God’s judgement. If we believe we are being punished, then we see God as a cruel and unpredictable person looking to reprimand us when we do something wrong. Growing up in legalism, we saw God as a punitive and unkind judge waiting for us to slip up.

In the Bible, correction is redemptive and is always aimed at growth and maturity. Chastening (another word for correction) means discipline or training. Judgement, however, is aimed at the final separation from God and will happen at the end of time (John 12:47–48).

Myth #4  “God Is Displeased with Me”

If a person believes this, they also tend to believe that God is some moody, irritable person who is ready to drop the hammer whenever they irritate Him. We can get this mindset from our parents, the church we grew up in, or from experiencing rejection or abuse. The Bible is very clear that God is not vengeful or mercilessly unforgiving of His people. It is a fact that “God is for us” (Rom. 8:31); God wants us to make it, and  His general attitude toward us is that of love, blessing, and flourishing (John. 10:10).

Myth # 5 “I am suffering because I lack faith”

In the strictest sense, this could be true. Suppose that God tells you to trust Him with your finances, that He will provide for you. You can suffer if, instead of believing God for your finances, you stay up all night worrying about them (Rom. 14:23). On the other hand, suffering for lack of faith is not true when we have done all to stand,  we have believed, declared God’s Word, prayed, and fasted, and still tragedy strikes. A former Miss America and her husband had a son die of cancer. After they sought God with prayer and fasting and standing on His word, someone approached them and said, “Your son died because you didn’t have enough faith.” A fellow minister went on a 21 day fast for his son to be healed of cancer. He believed God, declared His Word, and stood on the promises . . .  His son died. It takes more faith to place this kind of pain in God’s hands than any other pain.

Myth #6  “I did everything right; I shouldn’t be suffering”

Consider what Job and John the Baptist had in common. Job was known as an upright man who feared God and hated evil (Job 1:1). John the Baptist had the honored distinction of being called ‘the greatest’ (Luke 7:28). Yet, they both suffered greatly. Sometimes we suffer not because of what we did something wrong, but because of what we did right.

In the end, Job and John the Baptist had three options when faced with their greatest trials. Option one, become bitter.  Option two, complain (which is what many of us do).  Option three, submit themselves to God (believing that He would take care of it). In the end, the third option is always the better choice (Job 19:25).