What We Think About Suffering Matters

Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing [that is] not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. 10 For it became him, for whom [are] all things, and by whom [are] all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. —Hebrews 2:8-10 

I’m going to muse and ramble a bit. 

I’m hoping the germs of two conversations I had earlier this week come out in this post. I don’t think there’s ever a time when we’re not asking important questions about suffering, and the likelihood that I’m talking to women now who are dealing with suffering is pretty high. 

More and more people are rejecting the idea that suffering is part of life.

I think that might be the root cause of the “itching ear” syndrome described in scripture. Don’t talk about hardship! Tell me things that comfort me, even if they’re not real. We want to hear that we deserve a happy life. We want to hear that we can make one, or that someone in government can engineer a happy life for us. We’re entitled to it, because suffering is quickly becoming something that we no longer accept. 

It may seem like those thoughts don’t have anything to do with what you’re going through right now, but they do. There’s an added pressure these days, I think, if you’re going through something difficult because there is a general move away from the idea that suffering is an accepted part of life. That means, at the very least, that there’s less and less empathy being offered, and this idea that we can and should engineer a life without suffering, is becoming the accepted “norm.” That puts people who are suffering in a very lonely and confusing place. 

Suffering is terribly disorienting.

It often feels like we got scooped up in a Wizard of Oz tornado and dropped down in an alternate reality. There was an unpredictable and uncontrollable force that swooped in and carried us off. The world is populated by surreal characters who do things we can’t understand. Their entire worldview is screwed up and there are no rules that we understand any longer. 

Books and books have been written about suffering. It’s possible that our belief about suffering is what divides mankind up into categories. I don’t know. Just thinking out loud there. 

Philosophers have developed ideas about life, the meaning of life, the meaning of man, how it all fits together – ad nauseum. Most of it is tied to suffering, somehow or another, ie., utopia.

The concept of a utopian society is based on the rejection of suffering. God is associated with a belief that suffering is part of this world and this life.

God is replaced with the State in Utopia.

The State engineers a safe society, and that’s why science is such an important part of life now. We’re heading in that direction pretty fast.  I think that’s why there is an aggressive attitude these days towards anyone who would accept suffering as part of God’s purpose in this life for us. That idea that God is in control, and that suffering is used for eternal purposes must be eradicated if government is allowed to hold the reigns on our lives.

The only way we can accept an intrusive government is if we believe that government is a friendly force and that it will provide us with our hoped for safety and utopia where everything is provided, safe and we are all entitled to an equal share.  

Eternity, a Creator, and accepting the world as the Bible describes it is at the center of the arguments for accepting suffering in this life. 

Christianity is not a belief in fatalism, like many other religions that accept God as Creator.

It’s a belief in a good God, which means He intends a good purpose in the things that come upon us.

It is unique in all the world of philosophy and religion in this way. Most religions are fatalistic, and most philosophies end with totalitarian government as a necessary tool for safety in this life. Unless there is a good God, that’s the logical outcome for those two ideas about suffering. 

That’s why it is so essential that we look to God and study His attributes – the qualities that tell us who He is. His character is what differentiates our entire thought process.

It is a belief in who He is that will get a person through a time of suffering. 

I happen to believe that knowing God is sovereign is the starting point for any other thoughts about Him.

He is sovereign and He is good.

That’s the rope we have to cling to. But there’s another aspect of this story that is personal, intimate and extravagant. God Himself, came in the form of a human being, and suffered our eternal suffering in our place. Our connection to Jesus is His suffering. We have the power, like no one else on the planet, to embrace our suffering as an eternal opportunity be tied to Jesus in an intimate way, transforming the experience into something that truly is otherworldly, and has eternal value. 

Paul said he wanted to know Jesus in His death and resurrection. He also said that if there is no eternity then we Christians are the most to be pitied. We accept suffering, and if there is no eternity then we’ve got it all wrong. We should get on board with utopia and eat, drink, and be merry. It’s all about this eternal relationship we have with our Creator. We are not to be pitied. We’ve got it right. It feels surreal when everyone around us is operating under these strange, earthly rules of engagement. 

We can hide ourselves in Jesus, think about our good God, and come out the other side of trials stronger and better than before. 

There’s a lot that can be said about suffering, but I mainly just want to say that you don’t have it wrong. Nothing is wrong with your life if you’re suffering. Even if you brought it on yourself somehow, God is still a good Father, and has a purpose in that, too. Think about your good Father, Creator, Savior today, and trust that He has an eternal plan … because it’s true. He does.

In Hebrews we’re told that God’s great plan for all the ages centered on the suffering of His Son.

There’s great comfort in knowing that Jesus suffered for us, and that He experienced life like we do. He understands. 

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