I'm reading Chapter 3 of my Women's group Bible study, Peacemaking Women. The first part deals with WHY we suffer. It is not an exhaustive list, nor a mere simple response. The authors wish to provide an overview of this topic and resources for further study:
1. Much of our suffering is a result of being fallen creatures in a fallen world. Our world is cursed, and illness, calamities and struggles can often be attributed directly to this fallenness. (Genesis 3, Romans 8:20)
2. God disciplines us as beloved children so that our lives will produce a 'harvest of righteousness and peace.' (Heb 12:7-11) Even though a Christian may be disciplined by God due to sin, she is not eternally separated from God. The punishment for all believers has been dealt with fully on the cross of Christ. Even though our suffering may be terribly painful, we are called to resist the temptation to think that God is punishing us out of hatred and to instead remember that he only disciplines us out of love: 'Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.' (Rev. 3:19).
3. One reason God allows suffering is so that we might reflect on him more profoundly in our lives by being more conformed to Christ. 'Before i was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.....it was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees' (Ps. 119:67-67, 71).
4. God sovereignly rules over our suffering for the strengthening of our faith (see Heb 12:3-11 & 2 Cor 12:7-10).
5. Do you want to know Christ? Then you must be prepared to suffer (Phil 3:7-14). In fact everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12).