The Meaning of Suffering
Suffering is one of the central mysteries of the human experience. I don’t know why I suffer in certain ways and you suffer in other ways. I don’t know why some people’s suffering is very public, and other people suffer quietly and inwardly in ways that nobody else would ever know.
Suffering is an inevitable part of life, but it doesn’t have to be meaningless. Like so many things in life that we have little or no control over, how we respond to suffering makes all the difference.
Jesus counsels us:
I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16:20-22)
This passage alone is proof enough that Jesus sees suffering in a completely different light than the world does, and that his conception of suffering is radically different from how I would view it if I were left to my own devices. Fortunately for us all, Jesus doesn’t leave us to our own devices.