The issue of suffering is probably the most controversial and dogmatic of our time. The question of mankind’s suffering is deep-seated and relativistic to every person who populates this great global community. Countless man-hours have been poured into books, lectures, debates, etc. about the issue of suffering; leading us all to no congruent answer. No matter the interpretation or hermeneutical conclusion, suffering exists and it is here to stay. The existence of suffering in the world is as enigmatic and exploratory as the creation and exploration of the cosmos. However, I will charge us all with just one principle concerning this issue: Do not fret with which you have no control.
Ultimately God has the only answer to his benevolence and our suffering. It is an important issue and very dear to some of us who have suffered so much. There have been very insightful authors in the last century that have published extensively interpreting God’s place, relative to our pain, in the world. In some circumstances, we do have the ability to prevent suffering from grasping hold of our lives. How many times do we inflict the pain in our lives, through random acts of buffoonery or carelessness? Moreover, how often is our suffering derived from the lack of implementing God’s purpose in our lives?
But the crux of the “suffering question” stems from those situations that are based out of uncontrollable accountancy. How do we account for God’s grace in the natural suffering of innocence or repentance? It is out of this question that I should base my hypothesis.
I just want to give a basic theme to help assuage our testimony regarding the postulation of suffering. Do not dwell on what caused suffering in our lives, but give focus on what it can bring to our future. Dr. Ravi Zacharias asked in his book The Grand Weaver, “How can you meet God in all your appointments and your disappointments?” If you are spending all your time in grief wondering why this has happened to you (or another), how can you see what good God can bring to you out of it? We need to remember our faith, and God’s promise: “We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor], all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.” (Romans 8:28 ABV) He has the capacity to subvert evil, bringing good in its aftermath. God will find a way to turn our suffering into either peace or a testament to his favor. This may be hard at times, but we have to keep the faith and not sit in pity for circumstances.
Suffering is a matter of point of reference. Remember the old colloquialism “there are two sides to every story;” let’s change that to “there are two sides to every story of suffering.” On the one side there is pain, grief, and accountancy: why am I hurting; I can’t take this pain anymore God; why have you done this to me Lord? We either blame God for this peril in our life (as if it were God’s fault) or we question why he allowed this to happen to us. On the other side of suffering are humility, reverence, and faith. Humility is required to understand that we are going through something important and trying. We need to understand that anger or pity doesn’t help the situation. Reverence: that God is here with us and hasn’t left us. God is going through this with us. Faith means the understanding that no matter the circumstance, Jesus Christ will find a way to turn this tragedy into triumph.
Notice I didn’t use the word optimism. So many people try to convince us to find the good in all things. To find the joy in pain. Be positive about your troubles. Is your cup half-full or half-empty? I ask you if the cup contains poison in it, does it matter if it is half-full or half-empty? How are we to be positive about a two-year-old with terminal cancer? What joy can be found in the decimation of thousands due to a natural disaster? What good can be found of a child raped by his/her family member?
If we walk around looking for jubilation in suffering, we will find only skepticism and doubt. Let me put forth a scenario given in history; how exhilarated was Jesus Christ during his crucifixion. But we can ask what did the crucifixion bring to all of us? How about the salvation of all mankind and the ability for eternal life?
Our suffering should draw us closer to God not away from him. We need to use the suffering in our lives to enrich our testimony and help comfort others who are hurting alongside us. Suffering can be a gift if you allow it to be. People tend to resonate better with empathy than they do with sympathy.
We can all sit around and feel sorry for ourselves and pity one another. We can sit in classrooms filled with doubt and blame. We can even question the existence of God in the presence of such unexplainable atrocities. Ultimately, will this stop the pain from happening? Good things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to good people. Questioning the existence of suffering in our life is like trying to predict tomorrow; you cannot quantify what has yet come to pass. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Roman 8:18 KJV) God will use our pain as his instrument for good. Our successes, trials, and tribulations will be the composition of our testimony. Stay steadfast in your devotion to God, and all the faith of his promise to carry you through all things. The suffering of man will extrapolate the testament of his potential.
Zacharias, Ravi. The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2007.