56. All suffering is on purpose.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. {1 Peter 5:8}

I have two little girls, so something I hear a lot when they’re gearing up for a fight is, “You did that on purpose!” Nothing can escalate a fight as quickly as an ulterior motive. For instance, if one of my girls accidentally steps on the other’s foot, it is quickly forgotten. But if one of my girls stomps on the other’s foot in anger, I will have a small war on my hands.

What about suffering? What about the adult equivalent of having our foot smashed? If you ask ten different people to explain the presence of suffering in this world, you are likely to get ten different answers, including one of the more prevalent explanations, that suffering is random and meaningless.

But I’m here to tell you that far from being random or meaningless, all suffering that we encounter in this world is on purpose. That means it’s not accidental or unforeseen. It’s deliberate. Now, for sure, there are different purposes. Not all suffering comes as the result of the same purpose, but all suffering stems from a reason nonetheless.

Often, in this huge war we’re caught up in, our suffering is directly caused by Satan, which means that the purpose is vindictive. He hates God, and he knows he’s the big loser in this war, so while he has time left, he prowls around looking for anything and anyone that he can destroy. Hurting us is an easy way for him to lash out at God, because when we suffer, God suffers, too. This is the kind of sadistic, vicious enemy God is dealing with in this war, and because of Adam and Eve’s decision to put us in the middle of the battlefield, until the war is finally over, we’re vulnerable to all the suffering caused by Satan.

But Satan doesn’t have to cause all the suffering we face. Since the human race and the planet have been directly infected with sin, much of our pain in life comes from our own individual sins or the sins of others. In other words, the choices we make and the choices others make impact our lives in a variety of painful ways. In these cases, the purpose of the suffering is consequential. For me, this is often a more painful burden to bear. When I believe that suffering has come because Satan is targeting me for being God’s friend, a certain martyr’s strength is aroused within me. But when I realize that I have brought suffering down on my own head or that I’ve caused others to suffer is much harder to deal with.

This may not be an exhaustive list of all the different reasons or “purposes” behind the suffering we face in this world, but it certainly covers a lot of it! Hopefully enough for us to see that, while suffering may be a lot of things, it is never random or meaningless. There is a purpose behind all of it.

If you want to dig deeper—
Genesis 3:11-13, 17
Psalm 38:4
Ecclesiastes 8:9
Ecclesiastes 9:11
Romans 5:12
Revelation 12:12