Is suffering good? An explorative study on the religious persecution among chinese pastors

Rachel Sing Kiat Ting, Terri Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Human suffering is a major concern to the fields of psychology and theology; however, the effect of suffering is controversial to many. In this study, nine Chinese pastors, who had experienced religious persecution to the extent of confinement, were interviewed about their experiences during the persecution, the effect related to their suffering, and their ways of coping. The transcripts were coded into major themes by adapting a hermeneutic phenomenology method with a committee approach. Results showed that the suffering in religious persecution involved losses of personal freedom, physical trauma, spiritual isolation, and collapse of social support. Eight themes emerged as unique ways to respond and cope during the suffering - experiencing God's presence, letting go and surrender to God, identification with the passion of the Christ and His disciples, preparing to suffer, normalizing their suffering, worshipping and reciting Scriptures, fellow-ships and family support, and believing in a greater purpose. The first three of the coping methods significantly predicted positive affect. The pastors also reported transformation after the suffering, which can be categorized into four themes-switching the focus from self to the churches, embracing the humility and limits within oneself, increased trust in God's provision, and redefining their views on suffering. This study sheds light on post-traumatic growth and religious coping. Christian counselors are also encouraged to explore the meaning and emotion of suffering in therapy, as well as to utilize culturally sensitive coping mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-210
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychology and Theology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

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