Q. In recent posts it almost sounds like you’re saying we don’t have to experience pain and suffering in this life. That would be so great and I’d love to believe that all suffering and pain can be removed through enough faith and prayer. But what did Jesus mean when He said to take up your cross and follow Me (Luke 9:23)?
A. I have never said that we don’t have to experience pain and suffering in this life. What I’ve said is that God is not the cause of it.
The idea of taking up our cross or having a cross to bear as being a reference to pain or suffering is a man made construction based on a misunderstanding of Luke 9:23. When Jesus said to take up our cross and follow Him He was calling us to do as He was doing. Matt. 26:39 tells us He laid down His will in favor of His Father’s will. Romans 12:1-2 explains that’s exactly what we’re called to do. We’re to lay down our will for our life and embrace His will for our life instead.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
When people say God allows us to suffer for our own good, they’re forgetting that the Bible tells us the whole world is currently under control of the Evil One (1 John 5:19). They’re forgetting that Jesus said we would have trials in this world, but to take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). These statements wouldn’t make sense if He was the one allowing the trials to happen.
When sin came into the world it changed the creation in ways we can’t imagine. What little we know about life before the Fall and life after the rapture tells us that pain and suffering were never part of God’s will for believers, and no matter how much of it we have to endure in this evil place, none of it comes from Him and none of it makes us any more worthy in His sight.