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Making Sense of Suffering

Posted by Mark Hart on 8/21/18 7:00 AM

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Suffering does not make sense to this modern world. Not even the most scientifically astute minds or advanced mathematical theorems can explain the purpose of suffering. Science cannot give us an answer, so technology attempts to give us hundreds of ways to avoid it.

That’s part of the problem…not pain, but avoidance. Undergoing hardship to a non-Christian mind is pointless, but to a Christian, iit is nothing short of perfecting love.

I know, it doesn’t seem to make sense, right? How can love be rooted in pain? How can it be a good thing? Look at a pregnant woman in her third trimester, and you have your answer: It’s all about perspective. The perspective, the answer to the question and problem of agony, is at the heart of the above verse from Romans.

The truth is that suffering can be a beautiful thing, if we have the courage to trust God with everything, like Jesus did upon the cross. It was in my greatest moments of anguish that I learned not that God had abandoned me but, rather, how much God really loves me. God, in his love, allows us to suffer from time to time, not because he dislikes us, but because he loves us that much.

When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

We have a God who would rather die than risk spending eternity without us. Some of the discomfort we go through is a result of our own sinful decisions and actions. God never wants that for us, obviously; it was our own doing. There are other kinds of pain God allows, however, that are not due to our sin.

Others’ divorce, disease, natural disasters, and so on are examples of hardships that are out of our control but that our Lord might allow for a time. When we go through pain it is easy to feel abandoned or forgotten, but suffering doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us. 

Even Jesus suffered, and he was completely without sin. It’s through this process that we grow in endurance, character, and ultimately, in hope, as we learn from this passage in Romans. Our challenging experience is not without value if we know Jesus. When you are in anguish, you can pray and unite your afflictions to the only one who truly loves you perfectly or knows all you are feeling.


 Read this excellent article about Saint John Paul II and suffering.


When you go to Jesus, you’re not going to a God who only knows heaven; instead, you’re placing your hurting heart into pierced hands that understand both the experience of pain and the glory of redemption.

Our injuries are forever bound to his. It is in Christ’s brokenness that he saves us. It is in our brokenness that we, in turn, can help him save others through us. If those who profess to know and love God (you and I) go through hardships, all the while refusing to take our eyes off of our Creator, especially in moments of intense loneliness or pain…how much stronger will those around us become?

How much stronger will our witness be? How many more of our friends and family will want to come to know our source of strength and of joy in the face of trial or pain?

For you and I are the body of Christ, broken and shared so that others might live…just like the Eucharist. Every one of the tears I have ever shed has, in time, helped another. If my brokenness can bring hope or comfort, wisdom or counsel, peace or even joy to another member of God’s family, then that pain was not worthless but very worthwhile. Never waste your pain. Pray to God, offer it up to him as a prayer for someone else who is in pain, and turn that sorrow into something worthwhile.

If I am a true Christian, I don’t view things the same way a non-Christian does. Someone who doesn’t know Jesus views this world as an ending place; Christians see it as a preparation place. Someone who doesn’t believe in Christ will probably never understand the purpose of going through adversity, but a Christian knows the end of the story. This process is nothing less than participating in the perfect “love triangle” of the Blessed Trinity.

Our agony thrusts us deep into the heart of the Trinity, the most complete and true form of love that exists. The love between God the Father and God the Son is a love so selfless and so real that it has to be expressed in its own complete person, the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. 

Pain is temporary, but victory is forever. Anguish lasts a short time, but the joy of Christ is eternal. Don’t believe me? Just ask a mother moments after giving birth. Agony brings life to life in a newer, more profound way. Like life, brokenness is a mystery, designed to point us back to our Creator.

To suffer is not a waste of time; it is a moment in time. To suffer does not sever your relationship with God but more deeply unites you to him.

 

Salvation Given

We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.—Romans 5:3–5

Don’t close your eyes to the crucifixion, or you’ll miss the resurrection.


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Topics: Suffering, Mark Hart