10 Types of Biblical Suffering

This blog post was written by pastor Jon Ludovina and teaching team resident Garrison Weiner.

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.”   -Psalm 62:1-2

At some point we will all experience different types of suffering. It’s a difficult reality of living in a fractured world. Everything down here is touched by brokenness. But in the midst of the darkness, Christ has given us a new and living hope (1 Peter 1:3-4). He’s rescued us from sin, promised to walk with us through life and to guide us into the next. As God’s redeemed people we can come to him in our suffering and rest in Him. 

With that in mind here are 10 types of suffering we mentioned in week 7 of our series Exiles, a study of 1 Peter, which you can find here. We hope this is a helpful tool to understand your own suffering, relate to other people’s sufferings and learn how to pray and walk together as God’s exile people:

  1. Creation Suffering. This is a very broad category. Every inch of God’s creation has been tainted by sin and it’s effects. Natural disasters, terminal diseases and the sting of death wreak havoc. Much of suffering can be explained with nothing more than, “this is what it’s like to live in a broken world.” We hurt along with creation itself which groans while it waits to be renewed. (Romans 8:19-22)
  2. Grief Suffering. The painful reality is we’re all going to see sin take a lot of things away from us. Sin and death and suffering has a traumatic impact on the human soul and the right response is grief. A heart-wrenching cocktail of sadness and anger. People we love die and we grieve. Relationships fall apart and we grieve. We fight and struggle with sin and we grieve. (Ps 31:9-10, 1 Peter 1:6)
  3. Consequential Suffering. All sin has collateral damage; both in our own souls and in the people around us. When we actively sin we will experience consequences; and these are often very painful. The Bible states clearly that we are one of the main sources of pain in our lives. (Romans 6:23, Romans 7:21-25)
  4. Victim Suffering. Even when we’re not sinning and suffering our own consequences, we will often suffer as other people sin against us; sometimes in really harmful ways. Abuse, trauma, oppression and other forms of evil are painful realities throughout the world. (Psalm 9:9)
  5. Empathetic Suffering. Watching someone you love suffer is one of the most painful experiences on earth. God calls His people to identify with the hurting; to mourn with those who mourn. As well those who work in helping professions (counselor, social work, medical, etc.) will walk in this consistently. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Romans 12:15)
  6. Collective Suffering. This is when you suffer because you belong to a larger group of people who are suffering. We are part of families, nations and ethnic groups. When our group hurts, we hurt. Collective suffering often has a disproportionate effect on minorities. (Judges 21:1-3)
  7. Preventative/Discipline Suffering. Some pain is a small pain now that warns us of greater pain coming if we don’t heed the warning (e.g. abdominal pain that indicates appendicitis). Another example is when a loving parent gives their child a small yet painful consequence now to prevent much greater pain later in their life. (Hebrews 12:7-11)
  8. Holiness Suffering. When we follow Jesus for the sake of walking in Gods footsteps we will experience the suffering of laying down our fleshly desires and fighting our sin. This battle with the flesh will hurt, and our suffering for righteousness’ sake reveals what an incredible treasure Jesus is. (Romans 5:1-8, 1 Peter 4:1-6)
  9. Opposition Suffering. Jesus warned His followers that just following Him will lead to suffering at times. Historically, God’s people have frequently suffered at the hands of those who oppose God. Opposition suffering can range from taunting, getting made fun of all the way to the extreme of physically persecution and martyrdom. (John 15:20)
  10. Missional Suffering. Jesus endured suffering to show off how much God loves those who are far from them. We will sometimes be called to do the same to sacrificially love people far from God. (Romans 5:6-8, Colossians 1:24)

It’s important to remember that this list isn’t close to exhaustive, and suffering rarely cuts so clean as to fit neatly into one category. Suffering is often a mysterious combination of of multiple categories and sometimes it has little to no answer at all. However, studying and meditating on these types of suffering can help you respond well to someone who is in pain. It can also encourage you as you delve into and process your own pain. Prayerfully consider what types of suffering you’re dealing with and look to the Scriptures to see how God responds to those dealing with suffering similar to yours.