Suffering

Posted 10/7/2018

As a pastor, there are few moments as profoundly holy to me as those moments when someone wrestles with the reality of their own suffering. I say this not because suffering is in itself somehow holy, but because we can trust God to be at work in a mysterious yet redeeming way even in our suffering. 

While there certainly are times when we are able to learn from our suffering, I don’t hold to the idea that there is always something God intends for us to learn when we suffer. Nor do I hold to the notion that all suffering is the result of our having sinned. Frankly, there are many times I have no idea why a person must suffer or what good can come of their suffering.

But what I DO know is that in Jesus God has taken on human suffering and transformed it. Our own suffering may not have any redemptive quality about it — a quality that is central to understanding Jesus’ suffering — but our suffering can be redeemed by God’s powerful grace.

I admit, most of the time I can’t really see how a person’s intense suffering can be redeemed; and I seldom have any clue as to how innocent suffering can be redeemed. But I do know, because of Jesus, that God does redeem suffering — even our suffering. And hard as it is to do at times, I rest in that assurance.

However, that assurance doesn’t mean that I don’t rail against suffering. I ask the “why”. I protest the injustice. I question God; even if I’m pretty sure that I won’t get a satisfactory answer. What the assurance God redeems our suffering does is allow me, like Job, to continue to be in a relationship — a real, honest relationship — with God even in the midst of suffering.