I meet it every day. It is everywhere. Inescapably it lurks and pounces on each and every one of us. The question springs up often and is sometimes hurled “Why do we suffer? Is there any purpose to this?”
You would think that with all the times these questions are posed that I would have a ‘good answer’ by now, but alas there can be no glib or pat answer to people’s suffering. I have puzzled out some answers that work for me and while I try and practise what I preach I do not always preach what I practise.
In 2 Cor. 1:5 we read “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over in our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” As I pondered this my mind made a wild intuitive leap. I am prone to such ‘leaps’. I cannot always tell of a logical rationale for such jumps except in hindsight. My thoughts turned to my mother! I thought about the ways I have experienced her love and comfort over the years. I fell and skinned my knee. She comforted me. I was bullied or afraid and she comforted me. I was disappointed and disconsolate and she comforted me. I knew (experienced) my mother’s love through her gift of consolation. If I had never suffered would I have known (experienced) this gift of love in the same measure? In this world we revere a mother’s love! It is among the profoundest experiences we have and certainly the most formative. The experience of that love is dependent on the: hurt, disappointment, the suffering we also experience. Years later I hardly remember skinning my knee but my mother’s comforting love remains.
Suffering accomplishes something in us. When we suffer we are open to know (experience) the consoling love of God. Several years ago I had a fall and suffered tremendous physical pain. During that time I knew the consoling love of God! In the midst of my slow recovery I would tell people that though I would not wish such an event on anyone, that I was grateful for the opportunity to experience this consoling love. Many could not understand and I could not, then, well explain. During this period of time I experienced great growth and I would not undo the event if I could.
Truthfully I am still recovering physically. I am reminded of this with my recent experiences at the gym. During my recovery I was a weak as a kitten, though I had previously been quite strong. Last night I was forced to realize that I have lost a lot of strength in my arms. I will have to do a lot of ‘suffering’ if I am to build those muscles up again. I probably will not build them to where they once were but I no longer need to move grand pianos. I do know that meeting suffering, and by God’s grace pushing through, that I will build up perseverance which in turn builds character, which leads to a hope that will not disappoint. (Rom. 5:3 -5)
All these musings are for me. It is rarely helpful to suggest “God is working all things for good…” to someone in the midst of pain. My only real answer is compassion, which is suffering with my friend. I do this knowing that as I do it will ensure God’s comfort to me and hopefully through me to my fellow.
There are no ‘easy’ answers but we can know that God’s comfort is promised to abound, all out of proportion to any suffering. This flummoxes even my imagination as I try to picture God’s comfort flowing out in the face of the suffering we see in the world. No wonder they call his grace amazing!