Redemptive Suffering?


Suffering is a temptation to sin, and more often than not, one who suffers is led into sin. You hit me, I hit back–it is the classic cycle of violence. And so I question the UR claim that the sufferings of hell will purify sins. Moreover, it seems that suffering, far from producing saints, often turns sinners into worse sinners! Have you ever cursed when you stubbed a toe? Can you imagine the cursing going on in hell? And each curse sends us deeper into hell and sorrow, which in turn cause greater cursing.

What is the grace that allow us to “turn the other cheek” and to bless that which curses us? We do not learn to turn the other cheek by being hit. It is not being cursed that teaches us to bless. Suffering does not teach us compassion. Suffering is indeed an occasion for compassion, and being cursed is indeed an occasion to bless. But where does the grace to do so come from? Where does our redemption come from?

I want to say experiencing the love of God. But how can that be experienced when we are trapped by suffering? What if we never leave hell because we are too busy cursing God?


It reminds me of a story about Mother Theresa that I read recently.


Hi wildermuthn! Welcome to the board. :slight_smile:

In response to your question, you have to remember that hell is not the beginning of life for those who are in hell. Rather, it appears to be the place where rebels and rejectors-of-God-in-this-life go after a judgment/separation by God based on their actions in this life. If all those folks ever knew was suffering, I think you’d have a point that there’s no hope for them, because suffering itself does not lead to life. But everyone experiences at least a little grace in this life, and then for sure everyone comes face-to-face with the King of kings at the judgment–so at least at the judgment, the mercy and love of God begins to dawn on us all, regardless of what we’ve experienced in this life. I think it also becomes clear to those who are in hell that they are there reaping the consequences of their actions in this life, so they’re more and more aware that the cycle of violence perpetrated on and by them in this life is completely hopeless and futile. Therefore, they (gradually?) come to realize that the only way to life is by accepting the mercy of God offered through the work of Christ. Jesus ends the cycle of suffering/violence for all, and as soon as they trust him and his work they experience deliverance from that cycle.

So it’s not that the sufferings of hell automatically make people better–“purify people of their sins” is not a UR claim, but a Catholic one it seems to me. Rather, the sufferings reveal that there is no other way to life and happiness than trusting in the work of Jesus, which ends all sin and death (suffering) forever. It seems to me that the length of time people spend in hell is directly related to how long it takes them to realize that perpetrating the cycle of violence only leads to more death, and the only way out is repentance and turning in faith to the only true Source of life, Jesus.

To refer to your story, people in hell come to realize that God has “lit” their “lamp,” either by remembering something they learned in this life, or by understanding some truth revealed at Judgment Day. The sufferings of hell clearly show that the only “lamp” is faith in Christ, and everything else is utter darkness and death.

Hope that makes sense. :slight_smile:


Welcome wildermuthn. I think you make a valid point. Suffering by itself isn’t a good thing. It might make someone hint “rock bottom” or sometimes it produces perseverance and character but often it doesn’t.

Robin (aka Gregory MacDonald) discusses this question a bit in his book and talks (e.g.Is hell a state of purgatory? Is that you’re view? Isn’t that a Catholic view?).

I think an excellent illustration for what Neal said is “The Prodigal Son”. i.e. the son’s sufferings only turned him back to his father because he knew he had a father!


I couldn’t disagree more, and if I can’t agree with the original premise, then the rest of the argument is redundant.
It makes me wonder how much suffering you have experienced in your own life.
I know of some great saints who have endured much suffering and would say that they are the better for it.
There is a text that comes to mind but I do not have my bible handy.
It is true that suffering never leaves us where it found us.


There are many references to suffering in the NT:

Hebrews 5:7 - Jesus learned obedience from it

Romans 5:3 - We should glory in our suffering because it produces good things

Romans 8:18 - Our suffering will utterly pale in comparison to the glory that will be revealed in us as a result

How do I really know what a blessing good health is until I’ve suffered illness? How do I really know love until I’ve suffered fear and selfishness. How do I know hope until I’ve suffered despair…

All of God’s amazing qualities, characteristics become more fully knowable in the face of suffering the opposites.

If hell is a different dimension or state where the experience of opposites becomes much more intensified then perhaps the glory that’s revealed as a result is equally more intensified (Rom 8:8)?


When you put your hand in the fire and suffer a burn, you learn not to do that.