Free Christian illustrations on suffering that can be used in sermons and religious education – without charge or obligation.
These illustrations may be downloaded, copied or distributed without permission as long as no cost is charged and source is recognized.

There is suffering: so many will seek salvation.

Disaster - Where is God by Ian CoateA week before the February 2009 Bushfires (Australia’s worst recorded natural disaster), fire-fighters were control-burning bushland trying to prevent the sort of tragedy that would soon follow.  At the time, something very unusual happened – a koala, driven to extreme thirst, allowed a fireman to approach and accepted a bottle of life-saving water.  The incident was filmed and shown around the world.

When disaster occurs, we naturally question why God allows it to happen.  God knows of all events beforehand and, because of this, He is consciously aware that a greater disaster (Hell), is heading towards those who have not accepted His ‘gift of salvation’.  God does not want anyone to perish.  As proof of this, He took on the form of a man (through Jesus Christ) and paid the complete penalty for all sins on the cross - so that whoever believes in Him will receive eternal-life (John 3:16). 
However, God also gave people free-will and does not force anyone to accept His gift.  Consequently, the greatest of all disasters is to reject the ‘gift of eternal salvation’.
God does not desire any to suffer in life and He grieves at the terrible loss, yet He sometimes allows disasters to take their course so masses of people wake-up to their mortality and start seeking spiritual answers.  Only during such times of dire hopelessness do many people allow God to approach and accept His life-giving ‘waters’ of eternal salvation. 

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There is suffering: because warnings are ignored.

Titanic- Christian Illustrations by Ian CoateEarly in the morning of April 15, 1912, the SS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, taking with her 1513 passengers.  It was a tragedy that should never have occurred.  The Titanic had received many warnings but failed to heed them all.

As with the Titanic, we are on our maiden voyage (life) and tragedies are often the result of not heeding warning signs.  When we get into bad habits of over or under eating, too much exercise or too little sleep, our body gives signals of pain and discomfort, warning us to change our direction.  Likewise, the soul also sends out warning signs of depression, despondency, bitterness, fear, jealousy, pride - all signals that something is not right in our spiritual life and we need to change course.  Unfortunately, we often ignore these signs of impending danger, thinking we are unsinkable. 
Individually and nationally we set a course that will either sink us or steer us to our destination.  Being a perfect Gentleman, God lets us choose our own course in life.  God, also being all-knowing, sees the icebergs that lie ahead of our choices and sends many signals so we can adjust our course.  If we choose to ignore His warnings, we must also take responsibility for the outcome.  God is not to blame for life’s tragedies, but if we call He is always there with a lifeboat ready to rescue us. (Proverbs 3:5-6).

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There is suffering: at our own hands.

Protection - Christian Illustration by Ian CoateWe all want to be safe from those who would harm us.  When our ‘way of life’ or safety is in jeopardy, we are quick to cry out for protection.  The police protect us from criminals within our community, and the military protect us from enemies beyond.  Generally, people who have been saved or their liberty restored are very grateful to their rescuer (at least for a short time).

God wants to protect us from those who would do us harm.  Naturally, we also want this so we constantly pray to God asking Him to guard us from enemies.  However, what if the person harming us the most is ourself?  Usually, our own thoughts and actions are what prevent us from gaining true happiness and becoming everything God intends for us.  Frequently, it’s our own foolish decisions that wreck our lives or hurt the ones we love.  We are our own worst enemy.  When God disciplines us it is often an act of divine protection.  He is graciously trying to save us from ourselves.  Ironically, we should be thankful whenever God chastises us, but when do we think to thank someone for protecting us from ourselves? 

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There is suffering: for the purpose of new growth.

Crucifix- Christian Illustrations by Ian CoateIt is amazing how we can cut pieces from some plants, then put the cuttings in the soil where they take root and grow.  From the sacrifice of one plant, many new plants can be cultivated.

God is not the author of suffering.  He intended Eden (paradise) for mankind.  However, He sometimes allows cuttings (afflictions) to occur for the purpose of new growth.  In looking at the big picture, God is working all things together for our eternal happiness - not for temporal happiness.  As in Job’s case, any suffering we are undergoing may be the cause of future growth - both for ourselves and for many others.  Furthermore, disasters, large or small, remind believers and unbelievers alike that their time is limited and Heaven cannot be found on Earth. 
Every day, God works silently behind the scenes, stopping millions of disasters we will never know about.  When God does allow a disaster to take its course, He has taken every minute detail into account. He knows the suffering and sacrifice of one person can lead to the inspiration and salvation of many.  Sometimes the greatest triumphs emerge from the greatest tragedies.  Where would we be if God did not allow Christ to suffer on our behalf?

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There is suffering: to avoid greater suffering later.

Needle- Christian Illustration by Ian CoateParents put their children through the pain of having injections knowing that a small amount of distress at the time is far better than serious illness later.

God allows suffering in our life for the same reason.  Often, adversity in life will generate wisdom which, in turn, provides immunity against making serious mistakes later.  From the eternal perspective, it is far better to have a life of suffering if it leads us to Christ and eternal salvation - than to live a life of prosperity if it leads us to an eternity in Hell.  
God has our best interests at heart.  He doesn’t want any of His children to suffer everlasting damnation separated from Him.  Like any good parent, He would rather we go through temporary discomfort if it eventually leads us safely to Heaven.   Remember, life on Earth is a pinprick compared to eternity. (John5:24)

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There is suffering: to make us stronger.

Blacksmith Christian by Ian CoateMetal is shaped and strengthened through heating.  A diamond is formed through pressure.  Beautiful ceramic pottery must go through the fiery kiln.  An athlete’s body is formed through punishing exercise.

Often, when experiencing adversity, we ask: ‘Why is God punishing me?’  The answer is simple.  God is not punishing - but preparing.  He uses life’s sufferings to either remind us that we are on the wrong track or to strengthen and refine our soul.  God has a specific plan for each of us, and it is up to us to voluntarily put ourselves in His hands.  When we do, it’s like placing a metal rod in the hands of a master-blacksmith.  Soon we feel the heat and pressure as God toughens our spiritual metal into a useful shape.  At times adversities that God allows us to go through will feel like they could break us, but God is the Master Blacksmith – He knows our limits and has promised not to test us beyond what we can handle.  If we stay the course and leave ourselves in His capable hands, we will come out of our ordeal stronger than we have ever been and eminently ready for the specific purpose for which we were created.
Many great things are born from suffering.  Greatest of all is salvation which came from the indescribable suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross. (Hebrews 12:5-6. 1 Corinthians 10:13)

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There is suffering: from bad choices.

Buy Now - Pay Later - Christian Illustrations by Ian CoateApart from God’s gracious gifts, everything in life has a price.  Don’t be fooled - we seldom get out of paying.  We either pay beforehand or pay later, often with interest.
Buy now – pay later, may be an acceptable concept when buying goods in life, but “paying later” is to be avoided when it applies to our physical body.  If we don’t find time to exercise, then we will pay later when we are unwell.  If we don’t find time to eat the right food, we pay later when we are sick.

That which is true of the body is often true of the spirit.  If we don’t find time to study God’s Word, trust in Him and utilise His power, then we will have no option but to pay the price later when life’s many problems break us.  We live in a time of mental break-downs, stress, depression, hatred, fear and suicide.  We are all running up accounts which must be paid one day.  We can save much grief and avoid mounting debts if we simply remember - prevention is better than the cure.

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There is suffering: because we separate ourselves from God.

It would be ridiculous to cut through the branch on which we sat.  The branch is supported by the tree and, in separating our perch from its support, not surprisingly we would go plummeting down.

Similarly, if we cut ourselves off from God, we sever the very support that sustains us.  God supplies all our needs.  He upholds and governs all the laws of science.  He controls the traffic of the universe.  He maintains the delicate balance in nature, such as oxygen, sunshine and gravity, which keeps us alive every moment.  He has promised to sustain all those who acknowledge His Word.  And He has written His wisdom (the Bible) to increase enjoyment in life for those who apply it, thus providing a place of refuge which puts everything in perspective.
How silly to separate our existence from our Omnipotent Benefactor.  When cutting loose from our ‘Divine Support’ we should not be surprised when our life takes a dramatic plummet downward. (2 Corinthians 9: 10,11)

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There is suffering: because we have been chosen for a special mission.

Missionary of Circumstance - Christian Picture by Ian CoateA missionary is someone sent on a mission.  A Christian missionary is understood to be a spiritually-gifted person sent to a foreign country to overcome language and cultural barriers in order to teach the Gospel.

We have a very narrow view of what is involved in being a missionary if we believe it is only to preach in foreign countries.  Truth is God requires us all to be missionaries within our immediate surroundings.  We are to witness to those who cross our path (by word or by action), whether at school, at home or at the office.  No matter in what field, a Christian should be a beacon of professionalism, grace and virtue.  When those in our periphery ask what makes us tick, we can reply in lingo they understand.
However, missionary work is even broader than this.  Sometimes God requires us to go into foreign circumstances (adversity or prosperity) where our lives are dramatically changed.  No-one complains about prosperity, but when suddenly hit with adversity we could initially curse God and ask, ‘Why have You afflicted me with this tragedy?  Haven’t I tried to follow You with all my heart?’ 
In response, God may convey to us that many people are also suffering through similar tragedies and they, too, have been calling out in confusion and seeking answers.  Because of this, God needed a strong Christian who understood their pain, who could give them answers, comfort and lead them to Christ and eternal life by example. 
When our lives are suddenly and dramatically changed, it could be that God has specially chosen us for a very important mission.  (1 Corinthians 1: 3-7.  James 1:2-4)

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There is suffering: because we live in a fallen world.

Paradise Lost - Christian Parable by Ian CoateIn the past, decisions made by a king affected his entire nation.  When making good decisions his country prospered, but when making bad decisions his country suffered.  When a king declared war, he did not go off alone to fight - he made the decision for the entire country.  Furthermore, if a king spent the country’s wealth on frivolous things, all citizens and generations that followed suffered the repercussions of his decision.

Initially, God created a paradise for mankind.  It was never His design for us to live in a corrupt world in a corrupt body.  He created a perfect environment and in it placed man, with the power of choice, to rule over it.   When Adam, as head of the human race, chose against God, all future generations suffered the repercussions (expulsion from paradise and death – first spiritual, then physical).    
In times of adversity we are often guilty of pointing a finger heavenward saying, “How can God let disasters, illness and war occur?”  We must remember that we are not in Eden now.  We live in a dying, diseased world - in our dying, diseased bodies - making stupid decisions with corrupted souls.
However, God is working overtime to bring us back to paradise.  He came down to Earth as a man (Christ) and took the repercussions of all sin unto Himself.  Now, as a consequence, the path is clear for those who wish to return to paradise.  It is as simple as believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.  Adam may have lost paradise with his decision, but the good news is, just like Adam, we are free to find paradise (Heaven) with our decision.  We must stop seeking ‘Paradise Lost’ in this world.  God clearly tells us that it cannot be found on this corrupt and dying planet.

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There is suffering: to remind us that we need help.

Getting Older - Christian Illustrations by Ian CoateThank God for old age.  This is His way of reminding us that our time on earth is winding down.  He never intended this corrupt planet to be our permanent home.  God only allows us limited time to seek Him. A spare split-second and faith (in Christ) is all we need to assure our place in Heaven.  If the vitality of youth were to continue to the very day of our death, many of us would never feel the need to seek God. With healthy bodies and an abundance of energy, it is easy to say arrogantly, ‘I don’t need God! I’m in charge of my own life. I have strength and beauty aplenty. I can be my own God.’
We easily forget that, if not for the grace of God, we wouldn’t have the basic necessities such as oxygen, sunshine and water to keep ourselves alive even for a minute.  Inevitably, it’s our failing bodies that remind us that we are dependent creatures.    
As we become older, the crutches of youth are slowly kicked out from under us.  For some, it requires falling into that helpless state of old age to finally ask for a hand-up.

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There is suffering: when wills collide.

When Wills Collide- Christian Illustrations by Ian CoateIf we are stupid enough to be on railway tracks and see a train speeding towards us, we either get off the tracks or we stay and get whacked.   A train cannot suddenly swerve and change direction as its course has already been set.

We are created with free-will - the power to choose what we believe.  We can determine the direction we head.  God also has free-will (we are created in His image); however, God’s will is an unstoppable force (far greater than any locomotive).  We should never set our will in opposition to His.  God’s will, like a train, is very limited to where it can go.   As a train’s direction is dictated by the tracks that are laid, God’s will is dictated by a standard of absolute and unchanging perfection.  God can never be less than perfect or compromise His perfection in any way. 
When our prayers are not in accord with God’s will, the prayers are useless.  When we do works contrary to God’s plan, they will be knocked down.  If we live a life in direct opposition to God, we must not be surprised when we are hit with divine discipline.  If we refuse to change direction, it won’t be long before we have a fatal collision (the sin unto death).  We must align our will with God’s will - even the humanity of Christ prayed, ‘Not my will, but Your will be done.’

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These illustrations may be copied or distributed without permission as long as no cost is charged and author is recognised.

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Thank you to the many people who have sat through a session of me reading Illustrations at them. Special thanks to my Mum, John Mennen and David Webb who have given graciously of their time to edit these Illustrations and to Alan and Caroline whose support has enabled these Illustrations and web page to come to fruition.