The Doctrine of Suffering (In Relation to Childbearing)

Does that sound strange to our modern ears? “The doctrine of suffering”? It might if we are used to thinking that God is bound to prosper us and cause us to live in ever-greater abundance — on this earth. It might if we are used to thinking that things going “smoothly” is a sure sign of our being in God’s will. And it might if we are used to seeking “signs,” “a feeling of peace,” and “a sense of conviction” to know whether or not we are doing God’s will. If we have been in the habit of thinking in those ways, then we will consequently assume that hardship must be the result of “missing” God’s will for our lives. But, the Bible teaches something different.

Though hardship MAY INDEED be a sign that we are in disobedience to God’s will, it is not ALWAYS.

Let me be even more specific: If we obey God by NOT using birth control and by surrendering our bodies completely to Him as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), why do we think we will never have trouble? Why do we think, if we do start to have trouble, that we might not be doing God’s will? WHY do we determine our level of obedience based upon our situation and our feelings, instead of on the timeless Word of God? Because the truth is, obedience is NOT a guarantee of comfort or success (speaking in worldly terms)! To the contrary, obedience may be accompanied by tests, fiery trials, and valleys of the shadow of death. Because of this, we must be ABSOLUTELY sure of God’s will by knowing what His Word says. We cannot trust in a “sense of conviction” or a “strong feeling” we had during prayer! We cannot — and should not! — claim that “God spoke to me” when we heard not an audible voice, but instead had a feeling. And, even if we did hear a “voice,” the only way to know if it was God’s is to be absolutely ruthless in comparing it to the Bible! Satan can lie to us. Our feelings can lie to us. And our feelings are subjective and will not sustain us through the toughest and most painful experiences we may be called upon to endure.

Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about suffering:

“Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but ALSO to the harsh [!!!] For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were CALLED, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:” [emphasis added]

1 Peter 2:18-21

These verses refer to suffering because of a harsh master. Later, the passage moves on to talk about wives being submissive to their own husbands, EVEN IF their husbands don’t obey God (how would a man act who is disobedient to God? — he would probably not be a very good husband or father, but God says to submit to him anyway). It looks to me, that if we are told to obey those in authority over us WHETHER OR NOT they treat us well, then it makes sense to conclude that God does not expect us to obey Him only when we feel like it, only when we’re “fulfilled” and “happy” and “stable,” but even when things are looking poorly for us. Obedience is not based on circumstances; it is based on doing what God says. Period.

 “Beloved, DO NOT THINK IT STRANGE concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified . . . Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. [emphasis added]

1 Peter 4:12-14, 19

“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I [Jesus] have overcome the world.”

John 16:33b [emphasis added]

Jesus guaranteed we would have tribulation. When we suffer — if it is a result of our obedience — we suffer “according to the will of God.” Let me say that again: It is sometimes God’s WILL for us to suffer! Furthermore, when we suffer, we are to rejoice, because we “partake of Christ’s sufferings.”  Hardship should draw us closer to Christ; it should help us identify with His sufferings and understand with greater clarity His great love for us. When we suffer, “the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon [us].” Isn’t it wonderful to think that instead of distancing us from God, hardships actually draw us closer to Him?

There are many examples in the Bible of godly people who suffered — when they had done nothing wrong: Joseph. David. Elijah. The prophets who prophesied the destruction of Israel and Judah. John the Baptist. Jesus. Paul. If we think we are better than they — if we think we can somehow escape tribulation even though they didn’t — we’re wrong. They are perfect examples of people who did what was right, and then were “punished” for it; but, they didn’t allow their circumstances to deter them from doing God’s will.

Ladies, what about us?

Pregnancy is hard and so is labor. Caring for multiple children is stressful sometimes. Husbands can be grumpy and so can we. Life throws unexpected difficulties at us . . . and we wonder: Am I doing God’s will? Should we keep on having more children?

The problem is that we don’t search the Scriptures to know the truth; we search our own hearts. We search other people’s opinions. We try to predict the future ourselves. We make our circumstances the navigator for our lives instead of God’s clear Word. But, if we would take the time to scrutinize the Bible to see what it has to say about having children, there is no doubt: children come from God and conception is a gift, no matter what the situation. You don’t believe me? Test it. Read the Bible and see what it has to say on this topic. I have to warn you, though: many people say they’ve already done this, when in actuality, they’ve only picked a few verses taken out of context to support their weak position.

If suffering should be considered a normal part of life, does that mean we are to go about sour-faced and solemn all the time? No! God says to Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). In the Psalms, David is very honest about his sufferings; he doesn’t deny them in order to pretend that “everything is just fine.” However, instead of allowing his circumstances to enslave him in depression, he makes the conscious choice to use them as a reason to turn his eyes — yet again — to God for comfort and support. He praises God for His faithfulness and His love! He thanks Him for the salvation that David is confident will be soon in coming. He trusts in God’s goodness and justice. He does not say: “Maybe I was wrong to trust in God. Maybe I should have taken matters into my own hands and killed Saul when I had the chance, in order to defend myself.” No, he stuck by his convictions even when it was anything but convenient. He knew that obeying God would prove best — in the end.

And he sang joyfully to the Lord in the meantime!

Now to get personal. I  haven’t been through much of what could be termed “suffering.” I live in the USA and have a fridge, a stove, indoor plumbing, central heating and cooling, a 12-passenger van, a cell phone, a computer, plenty of food, and plenty of clothes. However, my life is not always comfortable. As I’ve mentioned before, being pregnant is never easy. You’ve heard the honesty; now, let me show you the other side of things: the comfort.

I have the best husband in the whole world! I tell him this often. I really cannot imagine that any other woman’s husband could possibly be better (sorry, I know you all love your husbands, too). He makes me a snack early in the morning before he leaves for work at around 4:30, since he knows I’ll need it before getting out of bed. He will go to the store to pick up anything I crave — orange juice, toaster strudels, donuts, roasted chicken, whatever. He cooks dinner for me (the smells make me nauseous), and helps put the children to bed. I could go on and on. And he does all of it with a loving, patient attitude! My husband is God’s channel of comfort for me.

My wonderful children are another channel of comfort. The older ones help with their younger siblings by getting together easy meals, cleaning up messes, playing with them, and helping them with their schoolwork, when necessary.

I understand that not every woman has an understanding husband, and not every woman has cooperative children (mine are not perfect little angels, either, just to let you know). In that case, perhaps God’s channel of comfort will come through another route: family members, friends, other believers, special help agencies, etc. If we want to be comforted, first of all, we must believe in God and in His Son; and second of all, we must ask. Even though God loves everybody, and rains His pleasant showers upon both the just and the unjust, for us to receive the full benefit of His help, we must surrender ourselves to His Lordship. Why is there so much suffering in the world? Much of it is caused by unbelievers acting like unbelievers, doing wrong things and hurting other people. God does not reward injustice! But, when we do what is right, God will reward that. He may not take away all the hard stuff; but, He will certainly help us through it in one way or another. And, we must ask — we must pray:

“Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

James 4:2b-3

Part of “asking” may include asking for help from others, too. We can’t hang on to our pride so much that we refuse to seek help when we need it. It’s okay to need help. As believers in Christ, we are part of a body; we were never meant to live life all on our lonesome — we were meant to support and encourage each other! Perhaps, if a believer has troubles (such as problems related to taking care of a lot of children), it is God’s will for other believers to step in and be His hands of help to that person. Instead of criticizing that person for “being irresponsible” and needing help and not being able to manage all on her own, other believers should see those problems as a chance to strengthen the body of Christ! I am NOT saying that men shouldn’t provide for their own families; they should. I am NOT saying that women shouldn’t do their best to care for their own children; they should. I am just saying that life has “tribulations,” as Jesus said it would, and that we need to be there to comfort each other through them, instead of condemning others for “having too many children.” There is no such thing as “too many children,” since all children come from God. If we are going to “blame” anybody, let’s put the “blame” where it belongs — and “blame” God! But let’s leave His obedient creatures alone.

Another source of suffering in this world comes from our enemy, Satan. He hates God, and he hates those who believe in God. There is a battle going on for our souls, and Satan will do all he can to ensure our souls will be destroyed in hell, whichever way possible. He sometimes uses suffering, and he sometimes uses a lack of suffering: he uses suffering to get people to curse God, and he uses a lack of suffering to get people to be complacent and feel that they don’t need God. So, we see that a lack of suffering is not ALWAYS a sign that we are “in God’s will.” The only way to be sure we are in God’s will is by relying on His Word. 






  1. Sanae.T

    This world’s views,common sense and rules are different from God’s rule as a result of sin.We Christ believers have to live in rules based upon God’s words under this world’s influence.There is always a severe gap here.And this gap is one of the reasons why we have to suffer in this world.

    We have to admit that even sincere christians often choose instant means trying to solve problems in this world.

    One poor area in the Philippines have a municipality conducting contraceptive surgery if women who have already 5 or 6 kids want it,I heard.As you know,Philippines is conservative cathoric country,many people do not use artificial contraception.But there are many poor parents who throw away their kids whom they cannot keep anymore.

    Relatives,neighbors,churches,orphanages,NPO..many people help abandoned kids there,some of them are adopted,but helping hands are not still enough.The municipality probably chose contraceptive surgery as a solution of this problem.

    Case like this I hear-not only in Philippines,but in many other christian countries makes me ponder a lot.What is to be blamed?

    We take many blessing from God.What makes us happy is the fact that God let us know him,and He keeps us.But we will never be satisfied completely in this world.Because our goal is not in this world but in heaven.I agree with you so much that lack of suffering does not mean that we are in God’s will always.

    I hope that you feel better now.Thank you for sharing,Jessica.

    1. Post
      Jessica Roldan

      You’re welcome, Sanae! Thank you for your helpful comment!

      What is to blame for the problems you mentioned? The Bible teaches us the answer in Genesis: sin.

      Adam was cursed with having to work extra hard to provide for his family. Eve was cursed with having more conception and with pain during childbirth. These curses are still in force today. However, though the curse is not lifted for the Christian, we have God’s promise of help and comfort THROUGH the hardship of living life in this sin-cursed world. We even have the promise that the BELIEVING woman will be “saved” (healed, helped, protected, etc.) in childbearing (1 Timothy 2:12-15)– IF they (born-again women, it seems) continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control. God promises a sort of respite for the Christian woman, but there are conditions. He does not promise this “salvation” for unbelieving women, and neither does He promise it for Christian women who do NOT continue in faith, who do NOT continue in love, who do NOT continue in holiness, and who do NOT continue in self-control. This promise is no guarantee against ALL trials; but, it appears to me a sort of RECOMPENSE and REWARD for obedience to the Lord despite the hardship involved.

      (I do believe that there is something healing to the woman’s soul in bearing a child and being a mother — a loving mother. The hormones released during pregnancy and nursing also help protect the woman from problems such as cancer. There is also protection for the woman when she lives within her ordained role (the home) instead of going out into the exposure of the “man’s world.” What other ways is the woman “saved” in childbearing?)

      Feminists, on the other hand, wish to TRADE the woman’s curse for the man’s, since they see it as somehow more manageable and bearable. However, I believe that it is when we patiently BEAR our burden that God rewards us: partially in this life, and fully in the next.

      I know this doesn’t address your comment fully. I just thought I might add a few more thoughts. 🙂

  2. Sanae.T

    Jessica,thank you so much for your sincere answer.Yes,this world is sin-cursed and these problems are only just its results.You are absolutely right that sin is to be blamed.

    Many Japanese christians have experienced to be blamed by non christians about serious problems among christians.For example,about the problem I mentioned in my former comment.I had wondered what I should answer several times.So I really thank you for your help.

    In Japan recently,it is becoming common to criticize housewives/stay at home moms.You can find many Japanese articles like ‘How wasteful it is to have/become a full-time housewife’ on internet nowadays so easily.

    As the number of workers will decrease in the future due to declining birthrate, our government wants to make women work as much as possible.Family oriented Christian wives/mothers who have to work outside for their lives are having a hard time.I know some of them practically.They are not feminists nor equalitarianists at all.Please pray for them-I know that they are facing tough struggle.

    Some says feminism makes women arrogant.It also deprives men of confidence as a family provider-this is also very big problem.This may be why people think that christian men are generally weak and unreliable here in my country.

    I respect you and all christian ladies who say ‘no’ to feminism.I was so surprised when I knew that many sincere christian ladies in USA are criticizing it clearly for the first time.I am blessed to know you,God bless!

    1. Post
      Jessica Roldan

      Thank you for further illuminating the situation in Japan for us, Sanae. It is sad to see the direction that Japanese culture is going. However, I suppose it has much to do with the fact that it is not a culture influenced strongly by biblical principles. As we are getting farther and farther away from the Bible here in the US, I see us going that direction too, sadly.

    2. Ruth

      It is a common attitude here in Europe too. Especially well educated women are seen as wasted potential if they choose to stay at home and raise their Family.
      The gouverments pay a lot of Money into campaigns to see that changed.

      1. Post
        Jessica Roldan

        Interesting that (if I understand you correctly), some governments are now seeing the need for more mothers to stay at home! When mothers work full time, the children end up being the government’s responsibility, and that is a huge burden for the government to bear. Sometimes, the government WANTS it that way (think Communist governments) so they can brainwash the children to do their agenda. At other times, the government would like to help families who are truly in need, but is overburdened by a society that is filled with working mothers who are not available to care for their own children.

      2. SusanneT

        Sadly in the U.K. the government still seems hell bent (an apt expression) on getting women to desert their family responsibilities and go away from home to work.

  3. Ruth

    Jessica , again, Amen to that article.
    We NEED to KNOW what the bible say to be firm if a challenging situation comes around.

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  4. Rosemarie Matthews

    Thank you for this article, Jessica! As I was reading I looked back and thought of all the times that I felt that I was out of God’s will when things went wrong in my life. Of course I would try harder to be obedient to Him thinking that if I did that things would pass. I now know as I’ve grown in my Christian walk that isn’t so and wether I am content or not I always have to be in His Word.
    It’s also so nice to hear how much you build your husband up in your articles. Often times I read articles from fellow Christians who speak ill of their husbands and it is so dis heartening. What a godly example you set for us ladies. Thank you for that.

    1. Post
      Jessica Roldan

      You’re welcome, Rosemarie!
      I really appreciate your sharing how you’ve changed as you’ve grown in your walk with the Lord. It is really encouraging to hear that you are learning/have learned some of the same things that God — through His Word — is teaching me!

      And thank you for the compliment about how I try to build up my husband! This is actually an overflowing of how I have been (slowly) changing in my daily life. I have found that I am much happier, and so is my husband, when I focus on all the good things I like about him instead of nagging and complaining about the things I don’t like. Of course Christian women don’t call it “nagging” do they? They prefer to think of themselves as offering “constructive criticism,” right? But it’s the same thing. Just as I am not perfect, neither is my husband, and that’s okay! He is very forgiving toward me, and I need to be so toward him. Also, he treats me better when I smile at him all the time and accept him how he is, and that is a HUGE reward.

  5. Diana J.

    Hi, Jessica! Thank you for this wonderful article! It is all of the thoughts that I have had on the subject over the years put into one post. Thank you! I will be adding this to my sidebar links!!

    The subject of suffering during pregnancy has been one that is near and dear to my heart, since that has been my road with hyperemesis, and was my main reason for procrastinating (for seven years!) on giving the Lord control of our family size.

    Here are a few articles that I’ve saved over the years on the topic of severe morning sickness and being open to children:

    Thank you for this wonderful article!

    P.S. Your theme of “trust God and the Bible over your own emotions” is what we so need in the church today, and following the reverse of that is the source of most (I believe) of the sin that we see in the Christian church.

    1. Post
      Jessica Roldan

      Thank you so much for the encouraging comment, Diana!
      I really look forward to reading the articles you linked to soon!

      Though I think I’ve probably said this before, I really admire your perseverance in continuing to be open to God’s will in the area of family planning despite the hyperemesis you’ve had to deal with. Truly, I am such a whiner and a complainer! I throw up every now and then and it feels like I’m nearing the end of my life; I can’t even imagine throwing up 15 or more times a day! You are truly an inspiration to me, Diana.

      Your friend,

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