Warning: This session is bound to cause young people to ask questions which you probably won’t know the answer to. Be happy to say that you’ll have to go away and look up more information.
Opening: Play an ice breaker of game to start the session.
Introduction: Explain that today we’re going to be exploring the idea of suffering. It’s a question that nearly every Christian asks at some point and it’s a question that lots of people in the bible asked too and so we’re going to have a look at some of the things the bible says about suffering.
Ask: How many of you have questioned about suffering before?
Brainstorm: Can you think of the different suffering that people go through? (The idea behind this is to explore that there are lots of different types of suffering…there are long term things like having a disability or there are things that happen to others that cause us to question such as death).
Explain: We live in a world where there is lots of suffering. We only have to switch on the news to see people who are suffering whether it’s a famine in another country or a murder trial taking place. Suffering can either be something that just seems to happen (such as earthquakes or people getting cancer) or it can be things caused by other people (such as murder).
The bible isn’t short of suffering either. If you look through you see that there is plenty of suffering in there. In Genesis we see that Adam and Eve suffer as a result of taking the fruit and sinning. In Exodus we read that the Israelites were suffering and being made to work as slaves in Egypt and if we jump to the new Testament we know that Jesus suffered too….as did a lot of the people who founded the early church.
Some of this suffering came as a result of people doing something wrong and some at the hands of others. Jesus warns us that being Christians isn’t going to be something easy and that people will suffer as a result of their faith.
Bible Study: Split the group into smaller groups and get them to look at the bible study on 1 Peter 4
Bring the groups back together and feedback.
Explain: A lot of the teaching in the bible suggests that God allows suffering to happen but doesn’t want it to…however if God was to step into every situation where suffering would potentially happen we would no longer have a choice in what we do.
Bible: Look at Isaiah 63:7-9
Ask: The verse at the end says ‘When they suffered, He [God] suffered also’. What do you think of that verse? What does it mean?
Explain: This verse suggests that God doesn’t sit back from everything that is going on but that when we suffer He also suffers.
Ask: So how should we react to suffering as Christians?
Explain: It’s not wrong to question God about suffering…it happens in the bible…the Psalms show people asking God about their suffering…there’s a whole book about a guy called Job who suffers a lot but the one thing these people do (including Jesus at His time of suffering) is to say that they’re going to praise God anyway.
Discuss: It’s easy to worship God and say ‘God is good’ when everything is good but how hard is it to do that when everything seems to be going wrong?
Explain: Often with suffering we have a choice to turn to God or turn away from Him and I’m sure each of us can understand why people would do either of those but it is a choice we have to make when suffering happens.
The other thing we should remember is that when we’re going through a difficult time we’re not praying to a God who has no idea what we’re on about but we’re praying to a God who knows what it’s like to be human, who knows what it’s like to go through a difficult time, to have a friend die, be abandoned or to be persecuted for his faith.
The other choice we have to make is whether we sit and feel sorry for ourselves or whether we make the most of the situation that we’re in. The book of Romans says ‘In all things God works for the good of those who love Him’.
We might not understand what’s going on but we have to trust that in the end it’ll be good….we have to trust that God is going to use the suffering for something good.
Video Clip: YouTube – No Arms, No Legs, No Worries
Ask: What did you think? How did you find his reaction to his suffering?
Worship: play the song ‘Praise you in this storm’ by Casting Crowns and invite the young people to bring before God situations they’re finding difficult that they would like Him to help with.
Pray to close