I was first introduced to the concept of suffering as a vocation in R.C. Sproul’s 1988 book Surprised by Suffering. See my review of and 15 helpful quotes from the book here. Suffering can come in many ways – physical suffering, loss of a loved one or job, loneliness, etc. l have previously written about “Encouragement in the Midst of Loss” here).
Sproul’s purpose in writing the book was that Christians would not be surprised when primarily physical suffering comes into their life. He wanted us to see that suffering is not uncommon nor random. No, it is sent by our Heavenly Father, who is both sovereign and loving for our ultimate good. He also wants us to understand that suffering is a vocation, a calling from God, a concept that will be new to many.
In a fallen world, suffering is going to come to all of us. You may be suffering now, or you may be caring for someone who is. Sproul tells us that suffering is one of the most significant challenges to a believer’s faith. I often wonder how nonbelievers deal with suffering without the strength found in Christ, who Himself was called by God to greater suffering than anyone who has ever lived.