Suffering is everywhere. Suffering is unavoidable. Through suffering we see how fragile life is, and through suffering we see how tragic life can be. Shakespeare seemed to have a grip on this when he wrote,
“Each new Morn
New widows howl, new orphans cry,
New sorrows strike heaven on the face.”
Suffering is absolutely coming, and there is no way to stop this impending pain that will strike every single one of us. It affects us through death, through betrayal, through illness, and through injustice.
It is an unavoidable interruption to the secular person’s life story in their pursuit of meaning and pleasure.
Every society seems to deal with this suffering in different ways. If you are in a Buddhist society, you might call suffering an illusion. If you are in a Muslim society, suffering is a test to see how you respond to Allah’s plan. However, the western world doesn’t seem to have an answer to this giant. The western world prides itself on being secular, and in the secular view, the material world is all there is. While other societies can view suffering as a means toward a greater end, in the western world, suffering does nothing of the sort.
The great end in the secular society is to be as happy and free as possible. The great sin of the secular society is telling someone what they ought to do or ought to believe. To say anything that might affect their autonomy or individuality. The solution to this great sin is to let a person do whatever he or she wants. This autonomy gives life meaning, and suffering impedes on or takes this freedom away. It is an interruption. It is an unavoidable interruption to the secular person’s life story in their pursuit of meaning and pleasure.
At the center of Christianity, we see God Himself in Jesus Christ willingly suffer for His people.
Christianity has a different story to tell. While some might shake their fist and turn away from God during times of suffering, suffering also has a way of drawing people joy and bringing them nearer to God then they ever could have imagined. In fact, the God of Christianity who could end all suffering (but doesn’t) also knows the pain of suffering in an intimate way. How? At the center of Christianity, we see God himself in Jesus Christ willingly suffer for his people. Tim Keller writes that a “great theme of the Bible itself is how God brings fullness of joy not just despite but through suffering, just as Jesus saved us not in spite of but because of what he endured on the cross. And so there is a peculiar, rich, and poignant joy that seems to come to us only through and in suffering.” Keller also explains that in Christianity, suffering can actually use evil against itself, thwarting the destructive purposes of evil and bringing light and light out of the darkness.
In Christ, we have hope and also purpose in our suffering. Now I know that this only begins to scratch the surface and might not even really help if you are someone suffering right now. However, stay connected with us as we explore this a little deeper with Kayla Stoecklein, who lost her husband to suicide in 2018. In this interview she shares how God has still been faithful through all of the pain and has brought her closer to Himself.