It is inevitable that humans will suffer afflictions in life. Some people go out of their way to pursue comfort and thus are experienced in avoiding many afflictions, but not so with believers who are committed to obeying and following Jesus. While I do not understand everything about why we suffer afflictions and have challenges in our lives, there are some things that I have learned and that I do know.
a. If we sow bad seeds in our lives we can suffer unnecessary afflictions.
b. Even if we do not sow bad seeds, afflictions and challenges will come.
How are we to handle afflictions?
If we are walking close to the Lord Jesus in intimate fellowship with Him, He will give us peace during our challenging times. Often, in my life, He will let me know personally that He is aware of what I am going through and is walking with me. That in it self is great comfort!
“20 and by Him [the Father] to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”
Sin is the cause of pain and suffering in this world. However when Jesus bore all the sin of the world, He produced the potential of removing real harm from all sin, pain and suffering that we would encounter. This means that whatever evil challenge that confronts us, if we believe, we have the potential of converting that evil into a "friend," or into a blessing not only for ourselves but for others in this fallen world.
Of course we are not perfect, but if we continually confess our sin He continually keeps us clean. Therefore, if you believe this, all the pain, suffering and affliction must, by law, become a blessing. It is not up to you to predict how the blessing will take place, it is only your task to believe and worship God for His wonderful miracle that took place in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Paul knew about this.
“24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,”
2 Corinthians 12:9, 10:
“9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Notice that Paul did not say that he merely endured his suffering and afflictions, but that he actually rejoiced in them and took pleasure in them. Why could he say this?
Paul knew the secret.
Notice in Colossians 1:24 above, that Paul said that his afflictions were actually filling up those afflictions of Christ's that were lacking. Paul also stated that his afflictions were working for the benefit of the Body of Christ, the Church. How could this be?
While I do not understand everything about this, I do know this, not only by Scripture but also by personal experience. Jesus paid the entire price for sin on the cross and by His resurrection He applied that to us. In that regard there was nothing lacking. I believe what was and is lacking is what is called vicarious intercession. Our afflictions in some secret way, when reconciled, bring others into the saving knowledge of Jesus and into His Kingdom.
Look at Old Testament Joseph as an example.
Joseph suffered greatly at the hands of his brothers and at the hands of the authorities in Egypt while he was a prisoner. However somehow Joseph's testimony was, "But God was with me." When he was finally delivered from prison and made prime minister over Egypt, he not only was personally delivered and rewarded, but his afflictions caused God's people, all of Israel to be saved. That is an example of what our afflictions will do if suffered in faith.
Now look at this entire passage in Colossians in this context.
19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,
20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross
“24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,
25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God,
26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.
27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Notice the end result that Paul had in mind through his sufferings, in verse 27. He knew that his afflictions would reveal to many that mystery that Christ actually lives in them! I submit that often the only way that God can reveal that secret to many is through our afflictions. I have some very specific personal testimonies about this that have amazed me!