The problem of suffering is one that has vexed humanity for centuries. What meaning can we ascribe to human suffering? Why do people suffer? Why is the amount of human suffering so unequally distributed throughout the world? The answers to these questions do not come easily. They also do not come without a certain price, namely commitment to the absolute nature of human morality and the fact that it does have an origin outside the human person, that is in God as our Creator and Redeemer.

Without reference to God it is impossible to make sense of human suffering as it is only in the suffering of Jesus that human suffering can be seen to be explained in a satisfactory manner. Without reference to God human suffering is merely an arbitrary fact that afflicts some and not others to one degree or another. There is no meaning that can be attached to it. We cannot even see it as some sort of punishment for sin as this would necessarily involve a reference to some sort of absolute morality that must ultimately be a result of a ‘God’ being the author of what is morally right!

Jesus’ suffering on the cross, His death and resurrection is the reference point that can give real meaning to human suffering. It is because Jesus embraced this seemingly wrong, even evil, aspect of our human existence that we can now give it redemptive meaning. Jesus suffered so that our sins might be forgiven. It is through His suffering and death, and then His subsequent resurrection, that sin, in its broadest sense the source of all suffering, is put to death. Jesus’ life gives meaning to human suffering, and in doing so, includes it in the work of redemption. As Paul tells us in his Letter to the Colossians, we complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ in our own suffering. (C.f. 1:24).

Human suffering, a result of sin in the first place is given a role in the ultimate defeat of sin on the cross. This is why the death of Jesus, a seeming defeat, is ultimately the greatest victory the world has ever and will ever see! It is through this process that we can develop an approach to suffering that will make it endurable. When we join our sufferings to that of Christ they become redemptive in nature. Apart from Christ they are a prelude to hell. With Christ they serve to be a gate to everlasting life! It all depends upon the attitude you choose to take to suffering.

How do I view suffering in my life, if there is much? Do I need to have a change of attitude in this area or do I have a healthy appreciation of how God can use my suffering for the work of his Kingdom?

Jesus, you embraced fully the mission that your Father gave to you. Like all humans you would have preferred not to have to suffer but you willingly went to the cross because you trusted that God the Father had a reason for this. Thank you for your trust; it has given meaning to my suffering.