Why Should Christians Suffer?
My first question is about what we Christians call "election" or "predestination". What would you tell people who wonder why, if such is God's will to have some people chosen among others to be a holy nation (not only Jews), why doesn't he provide a better living on this earth? Why should the elected ones suffer as pagans do?
First let me thank you for submitting your question. Your question really comprises two parts. First, do those who are saved (and therefore predestined by God) get special blessings because of their relationship to Him; and secondly why do God's chosen suffer? I'll take these one at a time.
We know that God has chosen His people (Eph 1:4, 2 Thess 2:13-14) and set them apart for Himself (Psalm 4:3). But should that mean that we, who have a special relationship with Him, live better lives? Asaph, the Psalmist considered the same things. In Psalm 73, he laments the fact that the wicked seem to always prosper while God's chosen suffer. He says "Behold they are always at ease, they have increased in wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure..." (Psa 73:12-13).
Asaph was almost stumbled "Until I came to the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end". He then realized that God is the final judge and the life we see here is minute compared to the life we all will spend in eternity. The wicked seem to prosper all the time, but God says that they are like fast growing weeds that bloom quickly then perish, but we are like a slow growing palm tree; strong and resistant. Indeed, God "sends the rains on the righteous and the unrighteous"(Matt 5:45). God is long-suffering so that all may come to repentance. If He were to judge all those who deserved it, then who would be left? And how would anyone be saved?
God does provide special protection for the believer, but that does not mean we will not suffer or experience persecution. God protects us (Psa 91) and will not allow the enemy to touch us beyond that which we can handle (1 Cor 10:13, Job 1:12, 2:6). But the difference lies in the results. This brings us to the second part of your question. The non-believer has no assurance that what he is going through will be bearable. Even though most people suffer, their trials produce vastly different results.
God uses trials in the believer's life for several reasons. They purify us (Malachi 3:3-4, 1 Pet 1:6-9. Psa 66:10) by making us rely more on God and His grace. James tells us trials increase our patience (James 1:3,4,12) and God uses them to glorify Himself (1Pet 4:12-16). Paul sums it up well when he states "my strength [in trusting and drawing closer to God] is made perfect in weakness" (Gal 12:9). The non-believer suffers to despair (Gal 6:7-8). He has no hope and no assurance that he will be delivered out of these trials.
Because God sees the end from the beginning, He knows where we're weak and where we need refining. Suffering is like a refiner's fire: burning away all the impurities and leaving only that which is profitable. We will be rewarded for our sufferings (Matt 5:10-12) and in them we can comfort others who are going through the same difficulties. Remember, Jesus suffered more than any man, but to the greater glory. In His sufferings, he made the way for us to be reconciled to God. If in our sufferings we can lead others to Christ, then we should suffer joyfully. Remember: "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us"(Rom 8:18).