What The Bible Says About How Suffering Can Be Used By God As A Purifier, A Test Of Faith And A Developer Of Empathy

If you have a life problem, like depression, an anxiety disorder, dealing with past trauma, an eating disorder, a marriage problem, a struggle to raise difficult teenagers or young children, a severe illness, coping with bullies, or grieving for someone, and you'd really prefer to know how to get over your problems rather than what the Bible says about suffering, visit our Self-help series.

This page consists almost entirely of Bible quotes on suffering, rather than any theological discussion.

In Matthew's Gospel in the New Testament, the Bible says that Jesus Christ said something that some might find shocking, but it's an example of the traditional hyperbole used in the Near East in Jesus' day and in fact also today, which would have been intended to illustrate the earnestness with which people should seek to eradicate sin in their lives, and also possibly that certain forms of disability can be a protection against temptation to sin. For instance, temptation to be greedy and to lust after someone will often come via the eyes, and so blind people will be protected to some extent from falling into such temptation. Jesus said:

Matthew chapter 18 (TEV)

8 If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better to enter heaven crippled or lame than to be thrown into the unquenchable fire with both of your hands and feet. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better to enter heaven half blind than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.

In the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 20 (TEV)

30 Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.

In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament, the Bible says that the apostle Paul travelled around from country to country telling people about Christianity.

In his first letter to the Corinthian Christians which is in the New Testament, he wrote:

1 Corinthians chapter 5 (NLT)

1 I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you, something so evil that even the pagans don't do it. I am told that you have a man in your church who is living in sin with his father's wife. 2 And you are so proud of yourselves! Why aren't you mourning in sorrow and shame? And why haven't you removed this man from your fellowship? 3 Even though I am not there with you in person, I am with you in the Spirit. Concerning the one who has done this, I have already passed judgment 4 in the name of the Lord Jesus. You are to call a meeting of the church, and I will be there in spirit, and the power of the Lord Jesus will be with you as you meet. 5 Then you must cast this man out of the church and into Satan's hands, so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved when the Lord returns.

6 How terrible that you should boast about your spirituality, and yet you let this sort of thing go on. Don't you realize that if even one person is allowed to go on sinning, soon all will be affected?

7 Remove this wicked person from among you so that you can stay pure.

1 Corinthians Chapter 11 (TEV)

32 We are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world.

It seems that Paul was not advocating a lifetime exclusion and judgment on the man. For In his Second Letter to the Corinthian Christians, he wrote:

2 Corinthians chapter 7 (NLT)

8 I am no longer sorry that I sent that letter to you, though I was sorry for a time, for I know that it was painful to you for a little while. 9 Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to have remorse and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. 10 For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow. But sorrow without repentance is the kind that results in death. 11 Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish the wrongdoer. You showed that you have done everything you could to make things right.

2 Corinthians chapter 2 (NLT)

4 How painful it was to write that letter! Heartbroken, I cried over it. I didn't want to hurt you, but I wanted you to know how very much I love you.

5 I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt your entire church more than he hurt me. 6 He was punished enough when most of you were united in your judgment against him. 7 Now it is time to forgive him and comfort him. Otherwise he may become so discouraged that he won't be able to recover. 8 Now show him that you still love him. 9 I wrote to you as I did to find out how far you would go in obeying me. 10 When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive him (for whatever is to be forgiven), I do so ... for your benefit, 11 so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are very familiar with his evil schemes.

In the Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament, the Bible says:

Hebrews chapter 12 (NRSV)

1 Therefore, ... let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.

4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children- "My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; 6 for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts." 7 Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? 8 If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. 9 Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. 11 Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. 14 Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

In Psalm 32 in the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament, the Bible says:

Psalm 32 (NLT)

1 A psalm of David.

Oh, what joy for those
whose rebellion is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!

2 Yes, what joy for those
whose record the LORD has cleared of sin,
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

3 When I refused to confess my sin,
I was weak and miserable,
and I groaned all day long.

4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.

My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
and stopped trying to hide them.
I said to myself, "I will confess my rebellion to the LORD."

And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
6 Therefore, let all the godly confess their rebellion to you while there is time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.

7 For you are my hiding place;
you protect me from trouble.

You surround me with songs of victory.

8 The LORD says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.

9 Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control."
10 Many sorrows come to the wicked,

but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the LORD.
11 So rejoice in the LORD and be glad, all you who obey him!
Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!

In his Second Letter to the Corinthian Christians, Paul wrote:

2 Corinthians chapter 12 (GWT)

2 I know a follower of Christ who was snatched away to the third heaven fourteen years ago. I don't know whether this happened to him physically or spiritually. Only God knows. 3 I know that this person 4 was snatched away to paradise where he heard things that can't be expressed in words, things that humans cannot put into words. I don't know whether this happened to him physically or spiritually. Only God knows. 7 ... Therefore, to keep me from becoming conceited, I am forced to deal with a recurring problem. That problem, Satan's messenger, torments me to keep me from being conceited. 8 I begged the Lord three times to take it away from me. 9 But he told me: "My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak." 10 Therefore, I accept weakness, mistreatment, hardship, persecution, and difficulties suffered for Christ. It's clear that when I'm weak, I'm strong.

2 Corinthians chapter 1 (NLT)

7 We are confident that as you share in suffering, you will also share God's comfort. 8 I think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and completely overwhelmed, and we thought we would never live through it.

9 In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we learned not to rely on ourselves, but on God who can raise the dead. 10 And he did deliver us from mortal danger. And we are confident that he will continue to deliver us. 11 He will rescue us because you are helping by praying for us. As a result, many will give thanks to God because so many people's prayers for our safety have been answered.

2 Corinthians chapter 11 (TEV)

24 Five times I was given the thirty-nine lashes by the Jews; 25 three times I was whipped by the Romans; and once I was stoned. I have been in three shipwrecks, and once I spent twenty-four hours in the water. 26 In my many travels I have been in danger from floods and from robbers, in danger from my own people and from Gentiles; there have been dangers in the cities, dangers in the wilds, dangers on the high seas, and dangers from false friends. 27 There has been work and toil; often I have gone without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty; I have often been without enough food, shelter, or clothing. 28 And not to mention other things, every day I am under the pressure of my concern for all the churches.

2 Corinthians chapter 3 (TEV)

17 Where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom.

2 Corinthians chapter 4 (TEV)

7 Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us.

8 We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; 9 there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. 10 At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies. 11 Throughout our lives we are always in danger of death for Jesus' sake, in order that his life may be seen in this mortal body of ours.

In his first letter in the New Testament, The apostle Peter wrote:

1 Peter chapter 4 (NLT)

1 So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you are willing to suffer for Christ, you have decided to stop sinning. 2 And you won't spend the rest of your life chasing after evil desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. 3 You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy - their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.

4 Of course, your former friends are very surprised when you no longer join them in the wicked things they do, and they say evil things about you. 5 But just remember that they will have to face God, who will judge everyone, both the living and the dead. 6 That is why the Good News was preached even to those who have died - so that although their bodies were punished with death, they could still live in the spirit as God does.

At the beginning of Peter's first letter, the Bible says:

1 Peter chapter 1 (TEV)

1 From Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ-

To God's chosen people who live as refugees scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. 2 You were chosen according to the purpose of God the Father and were made a holy people by his Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be purified by his blood.

May grace and peace be yours in full measure.

3 Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of his great mercy he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death. This fills us with a living hope, 4 and so we look forward to possessing the rich blessings that God keeps for his people. He keeps them for you in heaven, where they cannot decay or spoil or fade away. 5 They are for you, who through faith are kept safe by God's power for the salvation which is ready to be revealed at the end of time.

1 Peter chapter 1 (NLT)

6 There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. 7 These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold - and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

In the Letter of James in the New Testament, the Bible says:

James chapter 1 (TEV)

2 My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, 3 for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. 4 Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 But if any of you lack wisdom, you should pray to God, who will give it to you; because God gives generously and graciously to all. 6 But when you pray, you must believe and not doubt at all. Whoever doubts is like a wave in the sea that is driven and blown about by the wind. 7 If you are like that, unable to make up your mind and undecided in all you do, you must not think that you will receive anything from the Lord.

9 Those Christians who are poor must be glad when God lifts them up, 10 and the rich Christians must be glad when God brings them down. For the rich will pass away like the flower of a wild plant. 11 The sun rises with its blazing heat and burns the plant; its flower falls off, and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way the rich will be destroyed while they go about their business. 12 Happy are those who remain faithful under trials, because when they succeed in passing such a test, they will receive as their reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.

13 If we are tempted by such trials, we must not say, "This temptation comes from God." For God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But we are tempted when we are drawn away and trapped by our own evil desires. 15 Then our evil desires conceive and give birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Do not be deceived, my dear friends! 17 Every good gift and every perfect present comes from heaven; it comes down from God, the Creator of the heavenly lights, who does not change or cause darkness by turning. 18 By his own will he brought us into being through the word of truth, so that we should have first place among all his creatures.

In Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome in the New Testament, he wrote:

Romans chapter 5 (NLT)

1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God's glory. 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us - they help us learn to endure. 4 And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. 5 And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans chapter 15 (NLT)

13 So I pray that God, who gives you hope, will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In Psalm 42 in the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament, the Bible says:

Psalm 42 (TEV)

1 As a deer longs for a stream of cool water,
so I long for you, O God.
2 I thirst for you, the living God.
When can I go and worship in your presence?
3 Day and night I cry,
and tears are my only food;
all the time my enemies ask me,
"Where is your God?"

4 My heart breaks when I remember the past,
when I went with the crowds to the house of God
and led them as they walked along,
a happy crowd, singing and shouting
praise to God.
5 Why am I so sad?
Why am I so troubled?
I will put my hope in God,
and once again I will praise him,
my savior and my God.

6 Here in exile my heart is breaking,
and so I turn my thoughts to him.
He has sent waves of sorrow over my soul;
chaos roars at me like a flood,
like waterfalls thundering down to the Jordan
from Mount Hermon and Mount Mizar.
8 May the Lord show his constant love during the day,
so that I may have a song at night,
a prayer to the God of my life.

9 To God, my defender, I say,
"Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go on suffering
from the cruelty of my enemies?"
10 I am crushed by their insults,
as they keep on asking me,
"Where is your God?"

11 Why am I so sad?
Why am I so troubled?
I will put my hope in God,
and once again I will praise him,
my savior and my God.

In Psalm 73 in the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament, the Bible says:

Psalm 73 (TEV)

1 God is indeed good to Israel,
to those who have pure hearts.
2 But I had nearly lost confidence;
my faith was almost gone
3 because I was jealous of the proud
when I saw that things go well for the wicked.

4 They do not suffer pain;
they are strong and healthy.
5 They do not suffer as other people do;
they do not have the troubles that others have.
6 And so they wear pride like a necklace
and violence like a robe;
7 their hearts pour out evil,
and their minds are busy with wicked schemes.
8 They laugh at other people and speak of evil things;
they are proud and make plans to oppress others.
9 They speak evil of God in heaven
and give arrogant orders to everyone on earth,
10 so that even God's people turn to them and eagerly believe whatever they say.
11 They say, "God will not know;
the Most High will not find out."
12 That is what the wicked are like.
They have plenty and are always getting more.

13 Is it for nothing, then, that I have kept myself pure
and have not committed sin?
14 O God, you have made me suffer all day long;
every morning you have punished me.

15 If I had said such things,
I would not be acting as one of your people.
16 I tried to think this problem through,
but it was too difficult for me
17 until I went into your Temple.
Then I understood what will [eventually] happen to the wicked.

18 You will put them in slippery places
and make them fall to destruction!
19 They are instantly destroyed;
they go down to a horrible end.
20 They are like a dream that goes away in the morning;
when you rouse yourself, O Lord, they disappear.

21 When my thoughts were bitter
and my feelings were hurt,
22 I was as stupid as an animal;
I did not understand you.
23 Yet I always stay close to you,
and you hold me by the hand.
24 You guide me with your instruction
and at the end you will receive me with honor.
25 What else do I have in heaven but you?
Since I have you, what else could I want on earth?
26 My mind and my body may grow weak,
but God is my strength;
he is all I ever need.

27 Those who abandon you will certainly perish;
you will destroy those who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, how wonderful to be near God,
to find protection with the Sovereign Lord
and to proclaim all that he has done!

In Paul's second letter to the Corinthian Christians, he wrote:

2 Corinthians chapter 1 (NLT)

2 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you his grace and peace.

3 All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us.
4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.

When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
5 You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.
6 So when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your benefit and salvation!
For when God comforts us, it is so that we, in turn, can be an encouragement to you.
Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer.
7 We are confident that as you share in suffering, you will also share God's comfort.

In Paul's letter to the Roman Christians in the New Testament, he wrote:

Romans chapter 12 (NLT)

15 When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. 16 Live in harmony with each other.

In the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 25 (NLT)

20 Singing cheerful songs to a person whose heart is heavy is as bad as stealing someone's jacket in cold weather or rubbing salt in a wound.

In the Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament, the Bible says:

Hebrews chapter 13 (TEV)

3 Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them. Remember those who are suffering, as though you were suffering as they are.

In the First Letter of Peter, the Bible says:

1 Peter chapter 5 (NLT)

7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.

In Paul's letter to the Christians in Galatia which is in the New Testament, the Bible says:

Galatians chapter 6 (NLT)

1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.

2 Share each other's troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone in need, you are only fooling yourself. You are really a nobody.

4 Be sure to do what you should, for then you will enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well, and you won't need to compare yourself to anyone else. 5 For we are each responsible for our own conduct. 7 Don't be misled. Remember that you can't ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow! 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 So don't get tired of doing what is good. Don't get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time. 10 Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.

In the Book of Proverbs, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 30 (TEV)

7 I ask you, God, to let me have two things before I die: 8 keep me from lying, and let me be neither rich nor poor. So give me only as much food as I need. 9 If I have more, I might say that I do not need you. But if I am poor, I might steal and bring disgrace on my God.

In the First Letter of John, the Bible says:

1 John chapter 3 (NLT)

16 We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters. 17 But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help - how can God's love be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. 19 It is by our actions that we know we are living in the truth,

The apostle Paul wrote:

1 Thessalonians chapter 5 (NLT)

15 See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to everyone else.

16 Always be joyful. 17 Keep on praying. 18 No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

In the First Letter of Peter, the Bible says:

1 Peter chapter 2 (NLT)

21 Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps. 22 He never sinned, and he never deceived anyone. 23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted. When he suffered, he did not threaten to get even. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. 24 He personally carried away our sins in his own body on the cross so we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.

The main Bible pages on this site:

Bible Bible Part 1: Bible Quotations, The Holy Spirit, People And Their Stories
Bible Part 2: The Lives and Suffering of the Ancient Israelites
Bible Part 3: The Bible, Articles About Alleged Inaccuracies in it, And Stories of People who Became Christians.
To read a general article about why God allows suffering that contains lessons from people's personal experiences, visit: Why Does God Allow Suffering?
Or to read short stories, many of which contain details of how positive things have come out of suffering, visit: Stories About Acts of Kindness, Caring, Generosity, Courage, and Regrets for Insensitivity.
Or go directly to the next in the series: Forgiveness And Heaven.

The selections of Bible quotations have been put together by Diana Holbourn.

Throughout this series, wherever the initials TEV appear, they stand for Today's English Version (The Good News Bible).

Other initials:

Warning Against Believing Everything you Hear or Read

Don't be afraid to question the truth of what a religious authority figure tells you, or even the Bible or other holy books themselves, or certain people's interpretation of them. Nothing to do with religion or the supernatural is so well established in fact it shouldn't be questioned. To find out why caution is a good idea, visit:

The Beauty of the New Testament's Moral Teaching and Other Important Pages on this Website

Are you up to trying the challenges of the New Testament's moral guidelines, and would you like to know more of what it says about the love of Jesus? Here are some links to Bible quotes about the beautiful ideals the New Testament encourages Christians to try to live up to:

There are a lot of pages on this website with quotations from the Old Testament on them. Many of these are unfortunately rather gruesome, since the main theme of the Old Testament is warnings and stories about how it says societies were punished for mass lawless and hurtful behaviour, even to the extent of having war brought on them by God, that seem to have been designed to scare societies where crime and violence were rampant into behaving more ethically. In case there is any misunderstanding, it should be understood that this website does not endorse war as anything other than a last resort. The position of the website owner can be gleaned from the articles:

Fancy some light relief or laughter therapy? Then go to the first of our jokes pages:

If you have a problem affecting your mental health or well-being, like depression, a difficulty with life-damaging worry, panic attacks, phobias or OCD, marriage problems, an addiction, an eating disorder, recovering from the trauma of sexual abuse or domestic violence, coping with bullies in the workplace, or bullying and teasing at school, trying to lose weight, raising difficult teenagers, caring for someone with a disease like Alzheimer's, wanting to recover from anorexia or self-harm, or grieving for someone you were close to or feeling lonely, and you'd like some ideas on coping or getting past it, visit our Self-help series.

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