We Can Benefit by Enduring Suffering
“We pronounce happy those who have endured.”—JAMES 5:11.
1, 2. What shows that Jehovah did not purpose for man to suffer?
NO NORMAL person wants to suffer; neither does our Creator, Jehovah God, want humans to suffer. We can see this when we examine his inspired Word and note what took place following his creation of man and woman. First, God made the man. “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7) Adam was perfect in body and mind, and he did not have to get sick or die.
2 What about Adam’s living conditions? “Jehovah God planted a garden in Eden, toward the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. Thus Jehovah God made to grow out of the ground every tree desirable to one’s sight and good for food.” (Genesis 2:8, 9) Yes, Adam had a marvelous home. There was no suffering in Eden.
3. What prospects did the first human couple have?
3 Genesis 2:18 informs us: “Jehovah God went on to say: ‘It is not good for the man to continue by himself. I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him.’” Jehovah proceeded to create a perfect wife for Adam, making possible the prospect of happy family life. (Genesis 2:21-23) The Bible further informs us: “God blessed them and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it.’” (Genesis 1:28) The first human pair would have the wonderful privilege of expanding the Paradise of Eden until, in time, it covered the earth, making a global paradise. And they would produce happy offspring, who would be free from suffering. What a magnificent beginning!—Genesis 1:31.
4. From a historical standpoint, what is obvious about humankind?
4 Yet, when we look at the condition of the human family down through history, it is obvious that something went horribly wrong. Bad things have happened, and the human family has suffered greatly. Over the centuries, all of Adam and Eve’s descendants have become sick, have grown old, and have eventually died. The earth is very, very far from being a paradise filled with happy people. The situation is accurately described at Romans 8:22: “All creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now.”
5. How were our first parents involved in introducing suffering into the human family?
5 Jehovah is not to blame for the enormous suffering that has existed for so long. (2 Samuel 22:31) Part of the blame must be placed on humans. “They have acted ruinously, they have acted detestably in their dealing.” (Psalm 14:1) Our first parents were given everything good as a start. All that was required for such to continue was obedience to God, but Adam and Eve chose to pursue independence from Jehovah. Since our first parents pulled away from Jehovah, they would no longer be sustained as perfect by him. They would deteriorate until death overtook them. Imperfection has been passed on to us.—Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 5:12.
6. What part did Satan play in originating suffering?
6 Also involved in the beginning of all suffering is the spirit creature who came to be called Satan the Devil. He had been endowed with free will. However, he misused that faculty in an attempt to receive worship. Yet, only Jehovah should be worshipped, not his creations. It was Satan who induced Adam and Eve to seek independence from Jehovah, as if they could thus “be like God, knowing good and bad.”—Genesis 3:5.
Only Jehovah Has the Right to Rule
7. What do the consequences of rebellion against Jehovah demonstrate?
7 The bad consequences of rebellion demonstrate that only Jehovah, the Universal Sovereign, has the right to rule and that only his rule is righteous. The past thousands of years have demonstrated that Satan, who became “the ruler of this world,” has developed a wicked, unrighteous, and violent rulership that is completely unsatisfactory. (John 12:31) The long, miserable rulership of humans under Satan’s control has also demonstrated that they lack the ability to rule in righteousness. (Jeremiah 10:23) Thus, every conceivable type of rulership apart from Jehovah’s must result in failure. History has proved this beyond any doubt.
8. What is Jehovah’s purpose as to all forms of human rulership, and how will he accomplish that purpose?
8 Now that Jehovah has allowed thousands of years for humans to experiment with rulership independent from him, he is justified in clearing all these forms of rule off the earth and replacing them with his own government. A prophecy about this says: “In the days of those kings [human rulerships] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom [his heavenly government in the hands of Christ] that will never be brought to ruin. . . . It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” (Daniel 2:44) Demonic and human rule will cease, and only God’s heavenly Kingdom will exist and rule the earth. Christ will be the King, and he will have as corulers 144,000 faithful humans taken from the earth.—Revelation 14:1.
Benefiting From Suffering
9, 10. How did Jesus benefit from the things he suffered?
9 It is of interest to examine the qualifications of those who will rule in the heavenly Kingdom. First, Christ Jesus showed how well-suited he is for his role as King. He had spent untold ages of time alongside Jehovah doing his Father’s will, being His “master worker.” (Proverbs 8:22-31) When Jehovah arranged for him to come to the earth, Jesus willingly complied. There he focused on telling others about Jehovah’s sovereignty and Kingdom. Jesus set an excellent example for all of us by being totally submissive to that sovereignty.—Matthew 4:17; 6:9.
10 Jesus suffered persecution, and finally he was put to death. During his ministry, he was able to note all around him the pitiful condition of humankind. Was there any benefit to him for having seen that and for having suffered personally? Yes. Hebrews 5:8 states: “Although he was a Son [of God], he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” Jesus’ experience while on the earth made him more understanding and compassionate. He experienced firsthand the human family’s condition. He could sympathize with those who suffer and could better appreciate his role in coming to their rescue. Note how the apostle Paul highlights this in the book of Hebrews: “He was obliged to become like his ‘brothers’ in all respects, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, in order to offer propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the people. For in that he himself has suffered when being put to the test, he is able to come to the aid of those who are being put to the test.” “We have as high priest, not one who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin. Let us, therefore, approach with freeness of speech to the throne of undeserved kindness, that we may obtain mercy and find undeserved kindness for help at the right time.”—Hebrews 2:17, 18; 4:14-16; Matthew 9:36; 11:28-30.
11. How will the experience on earth of the future kings and priests benefit them as rulers?
11 Much the same could be said of the 144,000, who “were bought” from the earth to be corulers with Christ Jesus in the heavenly Kingdom. (Revelation 14:4) They were all born as humans on earth, grew up in a world surrounded by suffering, and suffered themselves. Many were persecuted, and some were even killed because of keeping their integrity to Jehovah and being willing to follow Jesus. But they ‘did not become ashamed of the witness about their Lord, taking their part in suffering evil for the good news.’ (2 Timothy 1:8) Their experience on earth makes them particularly qualified to judge the human family from heaven. They have learned to be more sympathetic, kind, and eager to help people.—Revelation 5:10; 14:2-5; 20:6.
Happiness of Those With an Earthly Hope
12, 13. How can those with an earthly hope benefit from suffering?
12 Can present suffering produce anything good in those who hope to live forever on a paradise earth free from sickness, sorrow, and death? The pain and anguish that suffering brings are not in themselves things to be desired. But when we endure such suffering, good personal qualities can be enhanced and happiness produced.
13 Consider what God’s inspired Word says about this: “Even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are happy.” “If you are being reproached for the name of Christ, you are happy.” (1 Peter 3:14; 4:14) “Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake. Rejoice and leap for joy, since your reward is great in the heavens.” (Matthew 5:11, 12) “Happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial, because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life.”—James 1:12.
14. What is it about suffering that makes Jehovah’s worshippers happy?
14 It is certainly not the actual suffering we may go through that makes us happy. The happiness, the satisfaction, comes from knowing that we are suffering because we are doing Jehovah’s will and following the pattern of Jesus. For example, in the first century, some of the apostles were jailed and then brought before the Jewish high court and denounced because of preaching about Jesus Christ. They were flogged and then released. What was their attitude? The Bible account says that they “went their way from before the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name.” (Acts 5:17-41) They were happy, not for the flogging and the physical pain that ensued, but for the understanding that this had taken place because they kept their integrity to Jehovah and followed in Jesus’ footsteps.—Acts 16:25; 2 Corinthians 12:10; 1 Peter 4:13.
15. How can our enduring suffering now benefit us in the future?
15 If we endure opposition and persecution with the right attitude, it can build endurance in us. This will help us to weather future sufferings. We read: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality of your faith works out endurance.” (James 1:2, 3) Similarly, Romans 5:3-5 informs us: “Let us exult while in tribulations, since we know that tribulation produces endurance; endurance, in turn, an approved condition; the approved condition, in turn, hope, and the hope does not lead to disappointment.” So the more we now endure trials because of our Christian course, the better equipped we will be to endure further trials in this wicked system of things.
Jehovah Will Repay
16. What will Jehovah do for the future kings and priests that will compensate for their suffering?
16 Even when we experience the loss of material things because of opposition or persecution that we suffer for holding to the Christian way, we can be content knowing that Jehovah will reward us fully. For example, to some who had the hope of going to heaven, the apostle Paul wrote: “You . . . joyfully took the plundering of your belongings, knowing you yourselves have a better and an abiding possession” as rulers in God’s Kingdom. (Hebrews 10:34) And imagine the joy that will be theirs when under the direction of Jehovah and Christ they share in dispensing marvelous blessings to earth’s inhabitants in the new world. How true the apostle Paul’s words to faithful Christians: “I reckon that the sufferings of the present season do not amount to anything in comparison with the glory that is going to be revealed in us.”—Romans 8:18.
17. What will Jehovah do for those with the earthly hope who serve him loyally now?
17 Similarly, no matter what those with the earthly hope may now lose or voluntarily give up because of serving Jehovah, he will reward them superabundantly with what he will do in the future. He will give them perfect, endless life on a paradise earth. In that new world, Jehovah “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.” (Revelation 21:4) What a wonderful promise! Nothing we may willingly or unwillingly give up in this present world for Jehovah’s sake can equal the marvelous life to come, which he will give his faithful servants who endure suffering.
18. What comforting promise does Jehovah give us in his Word?
18 Any suffering we may yet have to endure will in no way interfere with our enjoyment of everlasting life in God’s new world. All of that will be completely offset by the magnificent conditions in the new world. Isaiah 65:17, 18 tells us: “The former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart. But exult, you people, and be joyful forever in what I am creating.” Consequently, it was appropriate for Jesus’ half brother James to declare: “We pronounce happy those who have endured.” (James 5:11) Yes, if we faithfully endure present suffering, we can benefit now and in the future.
How Would You Answer?
• How did humans come to experience suffering?
• Suffering may bring what benefits to earth’s future rulers and inhabitants?
• Why can we be happy now in spite of suffering?
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Our first parents had a wonderful future ahead of them
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Observing suffering helped prepare Jesus to be a fine King and High Priest
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The apostles ‘rejoiced in being counted worthy to be dishonored’ for their faith