Are you suffering? Have you suffered? Things happen in this life that are unfair and wrong. As a Christian community, I feel like most of the time we push past suffering. We don’t want to know the details. We don’t want to share in the suffering. We explain suffering away using two or three well placed Bible verses out of context as painful jabs. I’m not saying you, or me, I’m saying we. I’ve done it. When we follow God, we experience a strong craving for everything to make sense.
Why Suffering Doesn’t Make Sense
The problem is, the world doesn’t make sense. This world is full of sin and pain. It’s full of joy and life and peace and love too, but you can’t ignore the evil things just because the good things exist. I know that many Christians believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will fall apart when people ask, “If God is so good, why do bad things happen?” if we agree that they are asking a valid question. Instead of glossing over it why don’t give them an honest answer… Bad things happen because sin exists in our world. Sin wasn’t part of God’s plan, and sin has started a powerful wave of consequences that weren’t part of God’s plan. Suffering is one wave of consequence I am referencing. Suffering doesn’t make sense! It doesn’t make sense to non-Christians, and it doesn’t make sense to Christians. We can agree about this, and it doesn’t change our faith. It doesn’t change who Jesus is, or what He did. I was reading this yesterday, and I felt such a kinship with how Dr. Langberg describes suffering in light of Jesus Christ. She doesn’t take the easy way, as so many others do…
“For most of us suffering remains an awful problem and essentially an explainable mystery. In spite of its mysteriousness, we can say several things about suffering:
1. Suffering rarely makes sense. We know that suffering is unreasonable; it is irrational. We work very hard to make sense out of it. We write books and give talks that attempt to make suffering reasonable. Although such attempts can be very helpful to us, I often think that the ability to explain suffering is the clearest indicator of never having suffered. Who can give a rational explanation for why two parents are, for the third time, burying one of their adolescent sons? How can we make sense out of the death of a thirty-year-old mother? Who of us can look the Holocaust full in the face and adequately explain it? It does not make sense. It seems incomprehensible.
2. Suffering rarely seems just. How many times have you encountered suffering in your own life or another’s and thought it was truly fair? We try hard to balance it out. The disciples did too. When they passed a man blind from birth, they asked Jesus, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ (John 9:2). Balance it out for us. Tell us it is fair because of something someone did. Jesus was not very helpful in this regard. He said, ‘No one.’ You can rarely balance it out. There is no balance for the gang rape of an eleven-year-old-girl. There is no justice in the brutal molesting of a child. It is not fair that a boy’s trusted youth director should involve him in sexual activity. There is no fairness in the suffering of an AIDS baby. You cannot make suffering fair.
3. Suffering in and of itself is not good. It is wrong. It was not intended to exist. Death is not good; abuse is not good; violence is not good. Sometimes as Christians we sound as if we think it is good. We sit across from indescribable suffering and glibly pronounce that “all things work together for good to them that love God’ (Rom. 8:28, KJV). Now do not misunderstand. I believe that verse with all of my heart. But it is not a glib verse, and it does not say that suffering is good. It does not say, ‘Don’t worry about what you are enduring; it will all turn out nice in the end.’ It does say that the God we worship is capable of redeeming the deepest agony, the most hideous suffering, the pain beyond words, into something that gives life to others and brings glory to him. But make no mistake, the transfiguring of agony into redemption cost Jesus inestimably. Death does not normally transform into life in this dark world. God’s redemption worked out in the life of one of his children always costs. The beauty of redemption in a life never comes easily. Whenever it does come, we can be certain we have stepped into the realm of the supernatural.” -Dr. Diane Langberg from “Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse”
To sum things up, Dr. Langberg says that suffering rarely makes sense, and is rarely fair. She also reminds us that just because God can bring good things out of suffering (which is His nature), doesn’t mean that suffering itself is good.
There are still a million unanswered questions we have about suffering, the main being, “Why does God allow suffering?” But these complex questions need messy, complicated answers.
Thank You for sending Jesus Christ to redeem our lives. Help us to know that You love us, and that you will never leave nor forsake us. You promise that when troubles come, You are there. Thank You that Jesus joined in our suffering to better understand us. Help us to know suffering was never your plan.
In Jesus’ name,
Do you have questions about suffering? I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll try my best to answer what you ask. I hope you all have a good week, I’m praying for you.