At some time or other, every human being experiences suffering. A baby causes pain by being born. Many live by inflicting pain on others. We all suffer pain and eventually experience death. Granted, believers alive when Christ returns to this earth will be transformed in a moment, but with this exception, the lot of all is to suffer and die (Hebrews 9:27). Eliphaz spoke truthfully to Job when he told the suffering patriarch, "For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble spring from the ground; yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:6-7).
Although everyone—Christians as well as non-Christians—suffers at some point in life, it is not true that all suffer alike. Seen from the outside, a Christian and a non-Christian suffering from the same incurable disease may appear to undergo the same experience. According to God's Word, however, the two are not equal (II Corinthians 6:15-16).
From God's perspective, the non-Christian is suffering without purpose, or perhaps he is suffering at the whim of Satan, who is merely doing as he pleases with a member of his own kingdom. In the case of the Christian, though, an all-wise heavenly Father is permitting suffering in a carefully controlled situation to accomplish a desirable purpose. God is a Father who disciplines His children (II Corinthians 6:18; Hebrews 12:5-8), a truth that the book of Job vividly teaches.
So what is the purpose of a Christian's suffering? To learn from it, we must ask what we are to learn; if we are to benefit, we must ask how. Some of Christ's words spoken when healing the man born blind suggest the answers to these questions.