Monday, July 30, 2007

suffering: reprise

understanding suffering
why is there suffering - That's what we want to know right?
suffering is not just a few bad things happening to us - even if they pile up in a row.
suffering is a deep hole of pain or difficulty that seems to have no exit strategy. Really I have not suffered much at all in my life. And I don't even have to compare my life to anyone else to deduce that. Recently God has put a few people into my path who have or are suffering.
And I have been challenged to consider how I view suffering.
My starting point is with some of the thoughts that I put down in this article about sacrifice. From there let me expand a little...
I think suffering is a vehicle for beauty. We tend to consider suffering as horrible and hideous - unbearable. So why are people in the misery of Africa smiling? How can the person dying of cancer find the resources to encourage other people? Are they simply so much more ignorant of how good life could be that they find pleasure in the simplest of improvements over their former condition? In part perhaps. But I wonder if they are not living in an understanding of beauty in suffering. They see a way to transcend the horror of their lives and choose to redeem their plight with deep acts of kindness and compassion. I doubt they live with an overinflated idea of hope - I think they see life for what it is and understand that comfort is far less desirable than love.
When people suffer toward beauty they need not compromise on justice or truth. In fact, the power of courage to live redemptively inside our suffering may well be the catalyst to true justice - not just a self=vindication that we so often pursue.
And I am not suggesting that we deny the passions and gifts that God has placed in our lives. That we should, in effect, chase after suffering as a holier state of spiritual condition.
I think we all can recognize places in our lives where we have or are suffering even if we admit that we don't suffer like some do. Suffering is not optional. It may be within our power to prevent strokes, cancer, job loss, death, depression, poverty, or addiction. But in suffering there are always things that are out of our control - inevitabilities that can sucker punch our best intentions.
Learning to suffer toward beauty takes a supernatural determination. I am grateful for the places where I have gotten to see that modeled for me in the last few weeks and months.
Here's an update: just check Ryan's blog and discovered his excellent thoughts on the same topic...

1 comment:

roverT said...

My brother was a pedestrian hit by a truck when he was 20ish and an atheist. He had to relearn how to walk, talk and even swallow because of a brain injury. Through the whole thing he dedicated his life to following Christ. A couple years later he was diagnosed with cancer, our family gathered around him to pray for him and he said, "I am not sure I want you to pray for healing, if something as good as what came out of my last suffering happens out of this, I want the good rather then an end to the suffering." Incredible perspective on suffering.